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A little less than a happy high
I have been assimilated
I had a minor realization come out of my discussion with So and Sean yesterday. Simply put, while I’m very interested art, music, literature, etc., I don’t believe that I have either the talent or the discipline to actually participate. Worse, I’m not sure I have the talent or discipline to rate recognition as an acceptable cultural voyeur. I don’t know enough about film to be a "buff," don’t know enough about music to be an "audiophile." I just sort of joyride through the experience.

I do wish that I hadn’t set aside the violin when I hit my teens. (Side note: Now I’m wondering if giving up had anything to do with my parents’ divorce.) I also wish that my family had had some sort of connection to Acadian traditional music. I wasn’t even exposed to French-Canadian fiddle traditions until a couple of years ago. Didn’t even know that such a thing existed. For me, fiddling was most indelibly associated with bluegrass, Irish, Cajun, and Romany traditions. Yeah, I should have guessed that the Cajun fiddle had to grow out of something, but sometimes I’m not that bright.

Increasingly I regret having grown up in a cultural void. The primary thing that identifies culture (i.e.language) was something that I did start out with, but I was teased out of that by the "better-adjusted" Canuck kids. Being French Canadian meant that I had roots on Sand Hill in Augusta, Maine. It also meant that I got to go to a Catholic school, attended wedding receptions at Le Club Calumet, and knew what cretons was. I can make mean french toast, understand the value of "grade B" maple syrup, and can say that my grandfather worked a lumber camp during WWII.

Aside from these snippets, I know virtually nothing about French Canadian culture or where the hell I came from. I’ve been to Quebec once. I don’t speak French any longer. I have no connections with branches of my family that didn’t move to Maine in the 1930’s and 40’s. I don’t even know what town my family is from. It’s like when my ancestors crossed the border, they left almost everything behind.

I’ll leave you to consider a modest proposal for addition to the text on the Statue of liberty: Your technological and cultural distinctiveness will be added to our own.

*One of the sponsor’s listed for Le Club Calumet, "Bilodeau Motors," represents another little piece of my lost heritage, albeit for entirely different reasons.

Current Mood: thinkin'
Current Music: Royal Crown Revue, "Walking Like Brando"

12 comments or Leave a comment
alex_victory From: alex_victory Date: June 24th, 2002 12:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I’ll leave you to consider a modest proposal for addition to the text on the Statue of liberty: Your technological and cultural distinctiveness will be added to our own.

Yeah... well... yeah. Very true, and very, very funny. 8)
komos From: komos Date: June 24th, 2002 06:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
So I take it that's one vote in favor? ;)
khourytamarisk From: khourytamarisk Date: June 24th, 2002 12:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
My family is from Nova Scotia. Les Acadiens were the ancestors of those who were deported to Louisana and other southern ports (including Boston) by the conquering British after the French & Indian War. I have, or more specifically my mother has, plenty of Acadian music. If you would like to borrow some real Acadian music, let me know.

And do I have to start calling you a Quebecois now? Les Acadiens don't really like the Quebecois.... ;P Just kidding, of course.
komos From: komos Date: June 24th, 2002 12:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yep, know the history, but I don't know it well. To make matters worse, there has been some sort of mental block that prevented me from connecting the history to the people/music/culture/etc. I'd certainly be interested in borrowing some tunes.

And as for the other thing, just shake your fist violently next time you see me... Once we start laughing, that should take care of any sort of genetic animosity between us. ;)
komos From: komos Date: June 24th, 2002 12:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Another random thought

Thinking about the animosity again. There was actually a fair amount of animosity between Quebecois families that arrived in successive waves to the cities in Maine. I know that the Bilodeaus were well settled in Augusta long before the Lajoies and the Lagasses found their way down from potato country, and as a result, there was this weird "second-class, second-class" citizen treatment that occurred. Talk about a community with an identity crisis...
khourytamarisk From: khourytamarisk Date: June 24th, 2002 01:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Another random thought

That's because Quebecois look down on the rest of Canada for "not being French enough." Those who move out of Quebec to anywhere are traitors, according to them. That includes 1st generation immigrants. Of course, by all rights, their children should be "traitors," but it's so much easier to call other people that.

And they claim that everyone else is arrogant.... :P
komos From: komos Date: June 24th, 2002 02:08 pm (UTC) (Link)


I think you mistook my meaning. It was actually the earlier replants who looked down on the families that came later. I'm guessing that it was primarily because the later immigrants were not as well assimilated, and they reminded the more established families of where they had come from. It was some sort of weird hazing ritual whose ultimate result was to cut all of us off from those things that defined us as a culture.

My generation is the first to move off the Hill definitively, and we're all fucked-up. Can't say that I've ever heard any of my folk claim that another ethnic group was arrogant, though. (I will go to my grave insisting that cretons made out of proper ground pork instead of the more traditional leavings is wrong, though.)
khourytamarisk From: khourytamarisk Date: June 24th, 2002 02:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Erm...

Oops, sorry. I reversed the words. D'oh!

And the Quebecois are horrid to other Canadians. I avoid mentioning that I'm half Canadian when I'm around Quebecois because they start talking in French (which they assume I can't understand) and they begin to deride, slander, and say, in general, nasty things about me and my heritage because I'm not from Quebec. Plus, they love to make fun of Americans (in French, of course) while they buy our products because our prices are cheaper. Of course, when I respond to them in French, politely asking them to stop, they get all surprised and apologetic.

That's been my experience with the Quebecois. I know that not all of them are like that, but the majority that I have met are real jerks.
wisdom_seeker From: wisdom_seeker Date: June 24th, 2002 02:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

So True...

I'm going to bring home my book on ethnicity and family therapy when I visit in August. I think you'll find the chapter on French Canadian families even more pertinent to your life than I did.

In my own recent quest for a sense of personal history, my mother has informed me that her great-great-great(?)grandmother on her mother's side was a Tory who left Boston and moved to Nova Scotia during the Revolutionary Period. She married a Thibault. So, apparently I am my own enemy (historically speaking, that is).

It's not easy realizing that I don't really know what "my culture" is. If you've been reading my multicultural class journals, though, I imagine you've figured out some of my feelings on it.

There's an institute for the study of the French in America (including those of French Canadian decent) in, I believe, Milton, MA. My Uncle Philippe donated a ton of documents he found while researching our family tree to them. I bet we could find something on your family history and more on our shared cultural bits if you wanted to take a day-trip there while I'm home.

It's funny (not ha-ha, but interesting). The experience you are going through right now is a prime example of why I think the "White Racial Identity Development Model" is inadequate. We who are "white" are a whole bunch of cultures. Lumping us all together by skin color works as badly for us as it does for minorities.
From: uruz Date: June 25th, 2002 07:01 am (UTC) (Link)

So sayeth the nerd

Your technological and biological distinctiveness will be added to our own.

The Borg have no culture. And neither does the US.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 25th, 2002 07:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: So replyeth the poli sci nerd

That's an interesting assertion U. regardless of whether you were being flippant or not. Its a commonly held belief that we as a society are culturally bankrupt, yet somehow despite this fact we export music, art, literature, television, and movies (most bad, but some good) to the rest of the world which then happily consumes them.
Does the "American" way of life not in some way comprise a culture? Are there not cross-cutting sociographic similarities between citizens here which bind us together. Hasn't mass media, standardized public schooling, and linnear assimilation (my idea that as a set of disparate social groups develops into a community they begin to adopt a set of traits common to the group as a whole while divesting themselves of certain traits which would cause them to be differentiated towards a point of near homogeneity) created an American "culture".

Mom, Apple Pie, Stars and Stripes, Superbowl Sunday, 4th of July, a constant state of flux where we exhibit willingness to push boundaries while simultaneously remaining socially conservative, the concept of inherent civil liberties (the mantra of "Its a free country"), a search for spiritual fulfillment through material means (money=comfort=opportunity).

I think our culture would be exceedingly interesting to a future anthropologist attempting to piece us together. It may not be as easy as say Irish (and its Celtic roots) whoose roots are located regionally, have a single common origin point within recent human history, etc.

Then again I too am a lost Canuck (perhaps more so since the only reason I know is because its on my original birth certificate) and this could all be the result of an overpriced education needing an outlet.

Scott C.

komos From: komos Date: June 25th, 2002 07:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: So sayeth the nerd

I'm there with ya, but my choice of words was deliberate. I suppose that it would have been more appropriate had I sub'ed "cultural" for "technological."

I don't know that I'd entirely agree with the idea that the US has no culture. I think it's more that the overall culture is rather generic in order to accommodate the mishmash of population we have. There are remnants of individual ethnic cultures, though much of these have either been assimilated into the greater whole or just stamped out. It seems like the groups that had the best view of themselves managed to maintain their traditions better, and those that had identity crises of one sort or another ultimately bought into being 'Mercan.

I'm bemoaning the fact that I have been deprived of my "unique cultural heritage." Whining, even. ;)
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