Judging by Facebook comments, you wouldn’t guess 74 per cent of voters chose to have a beer and wine store in Rankin Inlet in a 2017 plebiscite.
Of course, that 74 per cent was derived from only a 38.5-per-cent turnout at the polls, meaning the votes in favour of the store represented roughly 28 per cent of Rankin Inlet’s eligible voters at the time.
As usual with democracy, a passionate minority can outvote an apathetic majority.
It’s everyone’s right to be apathetic, and not voting is simply an endorsement of whatever outcome people who care more decide.
Now that the store is a reality, social media buzz seems weighted in the other direction. Most comments on the Rankin Inlet news page expressed sadness and pessimism about the store.
Many comments centred around the fact the store is opening right before Christmas and the worry that residents susceptible to addiction may spend any spare holiday cash on alcohol instead of gifts for their children; or that their families and children would experience the traumatic visions of intoxicated parents over the holidays.
That’s a rather sad intuition to have about our neighbours, as based in reality and experience as it may be.
Other comments suggested there could be better uses for the money, such as a cultural centre, shelter or addressing mental health.
It does seem incongruent that during a widely publicized mental health crisis, we should be making alcohol more accessible, but that is more to do with government funding and timelines than current narratives.
Philosophically, the beer and wine store is supposed to offer diluted alcohol options for those who want to drink, while still keeping hard liquor out of the hamlet.
Some commenters were rather pessimistic about those goals being achieved, saying that partiers would still seek bootleggers after the beer buzz runs out.
By the same token, wouldn’t those addicted to alcohol still spend their Christmas money on bootleggers rather than toys anyway?
Other comments even suggested closing the store during child tax day or until after the holidays.
For many, alcohol is not an addiction, but simply a way to socialize and relieve tensions. A glass of wine with dinner is something they look forward to, and it doesn’t end with the consumer passed out in the hallway before bed.
How much should those who drink responsibly be punished by the worries for those who can’t?
At the end of it, we need to remember that we are all humans, we all have addictions – some more dormant than others, some worn on our sleeves and others hidden – and our first instinct should be to understand, empathize and help, if needed.
So, like it or not, the store is a reality. Let’s start off by giving the benefit of the doubt on this clean slate.
Should things go awry and another vote be required, those who feel passionate should make their voice heard next time.