Tuesday, October 10, 2017

So I Took the Kids to the Terry Fox Exhibit

I recently took the kids to the Terry Fox exhibit at the Royal BC Museum.  I cried. The Terry Fox story is incredibly touching and beautiful. What a shining example of humanity he was.

But I was also VERY irritated. I like to think Terry would be ticked off too. 

I cried for the reasons we are all moved by Terry Fox. The artifacts are inexplicably heartrending. A shirt. A prosthetic leg. His mother's calendar! The letters from kids!! He was so young, so beautiful, so brave, so real. And then he died. 

Our culture eats up that shit. That's the part I found so irritating. First of all, we like our heroes to be pretty, check. Preferably white, check. UNCOMPLICATED, check.

Terry was a nice middle-class kid, a jock, a Canadian "every-young-man." We learn he was sometimes crabby on the road. Take that Canadians! Our hero was sometimes crabby. 

It's telling that the promo video for the exhibit prominently features Wayne Gretzky--alive but with the nice (fake?) clean brand intact (if not fake, certainly unknowable and easily digested).

I'm totally guessing but I bet Terry would prefer to see a Steve Fonyo exhibit or a Terry Fox and Steve Fonyo exhibit. (I would.) 

Over and over, throughout the exhibit, we learn that Terry did not want to become *Terry Fox*. He was just a guy who knew he had work to do and was determined to do it. Selfless, sure, but he didn't want to be made into a big deal.

Now Steve Fonyo. There's a guy who's been through some shit! 

He didn't die! 

After he ran all the way across Canada on one leg, he struggled with addiction and committed petty crimes. I'm not saying he doesn't bear responsibility for his choices, but, wow, what a comment on fame and heroism. 

And projection. Steve was no Terry in the looks department. And a more damaged guy. He got nationally dissed for riding Terry's coattails. What? Only one person's allowed to run on one leg? 

Eventually his Order of Canada was rescinded. How petty and punitive can we get?

I can't believe I'm agreeing with a Toronto Sun opinion piece, but give the guy his Order of Canada back. Back in the day, he ran across Canada on one leg and raised $13 million dollars and his life has been shitty ever since.

Steve Fonyo, his accomplishments and subsequent struggles with fame and post-fame should have been an equal part of the Terry Fox exhibit. His enormously successful 1985 run was inspired by Terry. 

His complicated life, though plausibly quite different to how Terry would have lived his, would add more poignancy and authenticity to the unasked for divinity of *Terry Fox*

Terry, the young man, was 22 when he died. He didn't have a lot of time to get complicated. In some ways, that's the saddest loss.

I think we do Terry a huge disservice, making him this nice, clean, lovably crabby cancer poster boy. 

(I've learned that filmmaker Alan Zweig has made two recent documentaries about Fonyo: Hope (2017) and Hurt (2015). I need to see these movies.)

But I reserve most of my irritation for the outdated idea that money will cure cancer.
In Terry's day, Cancer Inc. was not the beast it is today. Yes, we need money for research. Yes, we need more research. 

But as a Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer Survivor, an incredibly sensitive human being, and former beaten-up Education Inc. disposable lackey (i.e. feminist contract or "adjunct" instructor in cultural studies-type classes in post-secondary institutions), I know I got cancer from trying to behave and fit in a culture that hates who I am.

This is a sick culture and no amount of scientific research will fix that without acknowledging the corruption and giant house of cards that is contemporary global capitalism, which contaminates EVERYTHING.

I LOATHE with every single breath in my body that the sole response we continue to teach to our children in this day and age is to throw money at a GIANT COMPLICATED PROBLEM without having the ability or desire to teach complexity much less disruption or resistance. 

Including Steve Fonyo in this exhibit would have been a step in that direction.

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