The Mosaic Melting Pot or Rail Begone

The daily news is a constant reminder that our world is full of hatred, prejudice, intolerance, and injustice. To cope, Dr. StrangeJob was compelled to seek solace in his humble beginnings. In the beginning … Dr. StrangeJob was born a poor white jerk-boy on the wrong side of Steve Martin Boulevard.

The Doctor grew up in a small steel-mill town that, to all appearances, was the Norman Rockwell equivalent of the great Canadian Mosaic. Immigrants seeking employment at the local steel plant settled within small subsections of a segregated area known as the Pier. Polish, Italian, Ukrainian, African, and other immigrant groups created their own little havens. The groups kept to themselves and the Pier was isolated from the rest of the town by an underpass etched beneath a train trestle. The well-to-do citizens, or townies, lived on the non-Pier side of the railroads tracks. Stephen Harper would have referred to townies as potential supporters or “old stock” Canadians, but those from the Pier referred to townies as either rich or Sir.

To all appearances, the Canadian Mosaic was a perfect portrait of the positives of cultural diversity and the benefits of shared learning experiences. For the Doctor, this picture of tranquility was shattered in 1969 when he started junior high school. There were two adjacent junior high schools in the Pier. One school was attended by mostly Caucasian Catholic students, while the other was attended by mostly non-Caucasian Protestant students. The students from the two schools fought constantly, so much so that the school administration was forced to alternate school hours, recess times, and lunch breaks. The great Canadian Mosaic was more like a melting pot starting to boil over.

Thank goodness for progress. Forty-five years later, the underpass is now an overpass, the steel mill is now a green space, bootleggers are now drug dealers, and historical buildings are now attractions for cruise ship tourists. Many of the original company homes have been torn down, but some have been refurbished and rented to temporary foreign workers currently employed in coffee shops, hamburger joints, and chain department stores. So much has changed, yet so little is different.

But not all is black and white. The foreign-owned railroad company has recently suspended the local rail service and will likely apply for abandonment next spring. Many see the railway abandonment as an impediment to progress, but the Doctor sees the removal of the tracks as a necessary crack in the Mosaic wall. If there are no tracks, then there will be no arbitrary line to determine which side you are on. As Canadian icon Leonard Cohen states, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.  Imagine that.

Dr. StrangeJob

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