This morning I was disappointed to see the news that several monuments in the Little Lake Cemetery in Peterborough had been vandalized. It seemed as though the vandals targeted some of the oldest looking stones that they could find, presumably to heighten the emotional impact of the vandalism. I don’t know what the motivations for this act were, but I doubt that the people who did it really understood the reasons why it would hurt the feelings of so many in this community.
I actually worked for a summer at the Little Lake Cemetery as a groundskeeper. I loved the job, it was a quiet, meditative place. As I walked past the gravestones each day, I had the time to truly reflect on the lives of the people memorialized. Over time, it became clear to me that we as humans are not frozen in time but part of a larger system, that we only exist in our current state because of our ancestor’s struggles and choices. In turn, our choices will reflect and shape the future for generations to come.
Two of the gravestones that were damaged this week were the memorial stone for area Barnardo children, and the grave of Arthur Ross Ackerman, who fought for Canada in the Great War, died in 1918 and was one of the few soldiers to have his body repatriated to Canada. I couldn’t help but think about the past summer I spent at 4th Line, performing in Dr. Barnardo’s Children and Wounded Soldiers. 4th Line produces plays that illuminate the history of this region, and honour the lives of those who have passed. The cast and crew of theses plays were all energized with this very serious task of realizing Robert Winslow and Ian McLachlan’s vision of revealing the truth of the stories of our ancestors. These plays touched so many lives, I have spoken with people, some who knew these stories, and many who didn’t, who were moved to tears by the stories we told. I believe that the art we make at 4th Line inspires an awareness of the past which truly does instill a mentality of respect and understanding in people.
There is a very good chance that those who vandalized those monuments were descended from a Barnardo child, that they wouldn’t even be in Peterborough if not for those migrations. If they truly knew what Lt. Ackerman experienced in Europe, would they still desecrate his memory? I do not harbour hatred towards vandals of grave sites, but I am saddened by their ignorance of history. An event like this only strengthens my belief in education, and especially in the work that 4th Line does to bring history to people on a visceral and personal level that, lacking personal experience, only art can achieve. I encourage anyone reading this to take a moment to draw back from focusing on their immediate reality to reflect on the experiences of our ancestors, and to remember that someday we will be somebodies ancestors. I personally believe that people make better decisions and live richer lives when we keep those important truths in mind.
4th Line Theatre
Photo by: Lindy Powell