Reggie Black called me on the later side of last night and we had a long chat. Reggie’s not a “hi, how was your day” kind of conversationalist. We talked about Maine’s largest ethnic group, the Franco Americans, and my recent experiences attending “La Rencontre” at the Franco Center in Lewiston, with two hundred or so aging members of this group. We talked about the glue that had bound this ethnic group together for so many years, primarily their French language and Roman Catholicism.
We talked about an article published by the University of Maine’s Marketing and Communications department on the outcomes of a Maine state legislative task force convened in 2012 to define “who is Franco American.” I read the article closely; I read it twice. I was promised some “unprecedented perspective on Maine’s largest ethnic group” and found none. I was underwhelmed. The legislative task force called for the creation of a state Franco-American Leadership Council.
I told Reggie I thought the article and the task force was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Then Reggie asked “do you know what you’re going to write about for your blog tomorrow?”
I looked at my watch and said “probably nothing about Franco Americans, legislative task forces, and Roman Catholicism.”
We wished each other “bonne nuit” and “au revoir.”
I sat up for most of the night on the settee I had recently gotten from my late aunt, tossing around ideas for blog posts. I considered a “fluff piece” about a “Holiday House Tour” I went to last month or the Danvers Historical Society’s Holiday Designer Show House which ends this weekend. My creative and procrastinating side would love to spend several hours in the Jeep in the pursuit of beauty, but the logical part of me knows this is not the weekend to fall behind the clock.
I moved some furniture around and considered writing a blog post about the settee, but my early morning keyboard tappings fell flat.
It’s another sparkling cold day here in Maine. There are only 11 days until Noel. Que l’on chante qu’on s’apprete.
Fa La La La La.
Of course, I was just talking out of my snooter last night, not having read the article. Having read the article, it is a truly a farce, psuedo-educated people fashioning psuedo-scientific surveys to deliberately ignore the most obvious factors defining Francos. Getting paid well for it, too, apparently, and it’s never clear who wanted this mangled data or why.
Over and over, they talk of Franco-American culture without once ever defining any of its signal characteristics. Of course. They expect the “scientifically conducted survey” to reveal these characteristics, but at the same time they mangle the farce to specifically exclude a) non-American ethnic origin, b) French language, and c) Roman Catholic faith and practice.
Which, as any Franco and anyone who has ever lived around Francos knows, are the three most signal defining characteristics of Franco-American culture.
The most telling part of the whole mess is right in the beginning. Lucienne Cloutier knows who she is (despite the patronizing tales of sprinkling holy water intended to slight her religious faith as a childish thing). Sixteen-year-old Jordyn Lee doesn’t share Cloutier’s language or religion. So she says she’s proud of it, but that’s because she’s been told at school she should be proud of what, even if she has no idea what it is. She does what school tells her. Jordyn Lee has no clue who she is, and that’s exactly the result the four generations of schooling between her and Cloutier was intended to produce.
The fools who were so well paid to generate this mess of pottage say, “Until now, questions being asked about French cultural realities in Maine usually have revolved around language, religion or labor. It is clear that these questions are not enough to get at the realities they seek.”
Well, fracking Duh!!! Strip people like the descendants of Lucienne Cloutier of everything that made them different in America, and it’s no surprise that questions of “language, religion or labor” no longer get at any reality.
Do you think Cloutier went to a parochial school, or to a government school? Do you think it made a difference? There’s a question worth asking. Just why have so many Francos lost their language, their labor, their religion?
It’s because the people that no longer have “these realities” are no longer Franco. They’ve been fully assimilated. French genes, yes, but what else? Those things that make culture? Language, religion, shared ethnicity? Hello?
Whoever paid for this should demand the money back.
I’m so glad you’ve verbalized what I was only intuiting from the article. On the occasions I’ve been to these Franco gatherings, it’s as if these men and women know there is something they’ve lost. Yet they throw their hands up in resignation and say “Pas de quoi”(it was nothing).
Oh, but it was something.
Thank you as always. You really should have your own blog, you know.
As the Loaf of Meat sang, “you took the words right out of my mouth,” as to Mr. Black and blogging. Many of his comments and astute observations are blog-length, or skeletons of posts, requiring just a tiny measure more effort and arranging.
“Reggie, Reggie, Reggie,” (the crowd roars, calling out for his appearance).
Nice post, btw, JAB.