Over on GTA Bloggers, a poster asked a few questions about being a Torontonian. "Were you born and bred in Toronto, or have you just moved here? What makes this city unique to you? When do you become Torontonian? Can you become Torontonian, or do you have to be born one? How do you turn into a typical Toronto local? What do you love about this city? Or hate? Do people really turn into the "Toronto snobs" that the rest of Canada thrives on mocking? Or is that just a myth?
As I said, a few questions.
I was born and lived the first nineteen years of my life in Toronto. The fact that I still care deeply enough about Toronto to write about its issues eleven years later (much less a book that's set there in the year 1884) suggests that you can take the Torontonian out of Toronto, but you can't take Toronto out of the Torontonian. Not that I've really been tested in that respect. Kitchener-Waterloo, while definitely a separate community from the Greater Toronto Area, is still just an hour-and-a-half drive from the big city, so I guess it's debatable whether or not I've really left it.
I love Toronto now because I loved Toronto throughout my childhood, as a child can only love a home that has nurtured him well. I still recognize my neighbourhood, and I still recognize the feel of the whole city. Homelessness has increased, as has traffic problems, but I'm still safe walking Toronto's streets, and the faces that look back at me are ones that I still recognize. Some of the communities may have moved, but I still know where to get the best spring rolls. The subway is still clean (ish) and arrives on time. The streetcars still rumble. And, in general, the people remain polite, if a little hurried. The city still has that energy of people on the go, but it hasn't attracted the negative edge that I often felt in parts of Miami. I have yet to see any area under siege in Toronto.
Can you become a Torontonian? That's not for me to answer. All I know is that hundreds of thousands of people living in Toronto today were born elsewhere, and they are a part of what I love about Toronto. The diversity of faces, stores and food make Toronto special for me. I don't know if they feel themselves to be Torontonian, but to me they are.
Are we snobs? Maybe, but no more than anybody else is who is happy with where they live and proud of where they've come from. Articles that I have read from Western Canadians who have moved to this city suggest that the city isn't as self-centred as the media portrays it to be. As I said, I've yet to experience any part of the city that feels itself under siege -- this means that, for most part, Torontonians welcome the people who visit or come to live here. "Outsiders", for the most part, become neighbours without difficulty. This is not that special a trait -- this Torontonian feels quite at home among his Kitchener neighbours -- but Torontonian arrogance is clearly exaggerated.
Maybe we need a kick in our complacency now and again, but for the most part, we're just happy to be here. Toronto, for all its faults, is still something to be proud of. And just as New Yorkers, Chicagoans and Montrealers have a right to be proud of who they are and where they come from, so should we. Pride may cometh before the fall, but in moderation, pride is a basic human right.