What with everything else happening in 2017, it is easy to forget all the momentous events that happened within the Mennosphere this past year. As a public service, I spent the better part of this afternoon perusing old tweets and headlines from the Mennonite media to come up with the highlights of the year. I have not made this into a year-end quiz. If you want a quiz, go make your own. I give you instead, a year-end review. As always, this post is heavily biased to events happening in the Canadian Mennosphere.
It’s not easy to ignore our neighbours to the south. But I try.
The First Quarter
January opened in Canada with CBC’s Pure hitting the airwaves. I got out before the show aired with my critiques of the mishmash of Mennotypes, and the mainstream Mennonite press followed. As could be expected, we Mennonites both raged with righteous indignation and chastised ourselves for that rage.
This was our taste of cultural appropriation. Or something like it.
The topic became a lot hotter outside of the Mennosphere a few months later so we get to think of ourselves as ahead of the trend on that one. It’s a little confusing because cultural appropriation is defined as a people with less power having their cultural trappings appropriated by a people with more power, and we’re never really sure where Mennonites stand on the power hierarchy.
Although the general public misunderstands us on a daily basis, CBC’s Pure gave us a rare opportunity to learn what it is like to be misrepresented in the media more broadly. Lots of people face this far more often than we do and the moralists among us pointed that out.
Others of us just made fun of it on Twitter.
Mennonite Twitter was lively in the first quarter of 2017. Top tweets in the first quarter of 2017 included a lot of fun around CBC Pure – especially those by FreundschaftPhoto. February also brought lots of Menno romance with the hashtag #MennoniteValentines.
We were also a bit ahead of the curve in obsessing about nazism this year. Ben Goossen’s book Chosen Nation: Mennonites and Germany in a Global Era was published in March this year and that brought with it much hand-wringing about our historical relationship to German nationalism in and around world war II. Goossen’s book was not ground-breaking for identifying the presence of Mennonite nazi sympathizers and collaborators; this has long been known, if rarely discussed. That his focus was on national identity formation didn’t stop various Mennonite reviewers from taking offense at Goossen’s failure to write an entirely different book – preferably one that exonerated any Mennonite complicity and avoided discussions of national identity.
The New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale always brings out a flurry of tweets (yes, it’s mostly just me). This year was extra fun because Carol Penner had us all on the anxious look-out for a new turkey potpie booth. For the record, no, there was no new turkey potpie booth and, if the mystery of the missing potpies was ever solved, it was never reported.
If there were any fascinating Mennonite discussions in the third quarter, I studiously ignored them. In August, however, I did ask the Mennonites on Twitter whether dogs or cats were more Mennonite. I mention this here just to make all of my Mennonite readers realize all the important things they are missing by not being on Twitter (dogs won the poll).
From July through September, we mostly continued talking about the same things we’d already been talking about earlier in the year. And, really, for years before.
In July, our American cousins held a gathering with a lot more raffles than Canadian Mennonite gatherings but a fair bit less tweeting. Sometime after the gathering, a number of these American cousins also stood around outside watching a total eclipse of the sun.
At the end of September, The Daily Bonnet and I got into a heated dispute on Twitter over which of us had the intellectual property rights over Mennonite and hipster similarities. We’re still in the midst of our conflict resolution process but it looks like I’ll get to talk about plaid and he’ll have rights over yerba.
We were all over controversy in the last quarter of 2017. In addition to the riveting discussions of the restructuring of Mennonite Church Canada, the Mennosphere was filled with discussion over the Canadian Mennonite’s advertising policy. While my voice was a meant as a piece of levity to ameliorate some of the pain a certain advertorial caused, others engaged with more serious intent both with the Canadian Mennonite and Maple View Mennonite Church who placed the original advert.
The Canadian Mennonite proved in its response to critiques that just as we couldn’t decide in January where we collectively stood in societal power structures as related to cultural appropriation, we were no better by the final quarter at seeing how “helping diverse voices speak to the larger church” requires an attentiveness to the power imbalances within our collectivity.
2017 wasn’t a great year for recognizing our place in systems of power. But then, what year is?
Not a lot of Mennotweeps joined in but I had some fun reflecting on the implications of legalized marijuana on the Mennoworld – spurred on by the announcement of a CMU panel on the same topic. Here’s to thinking of all the chill relief sales coming up once edibles hit the Mennonite food tents.
No cocktail this week.
Pour yourself some bubbly and don’t forget to ring in the New Year with a rousing version of 606.