Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lessons From The French of North America

One of the most interesting places I ever visited was the island of St. Pierre of St. Pierre and Miquelon. St. Pierre and Miquelon are tiny islands off the coast of Newfoundland. The houses are made of wood and are gathered in the hills like coffee in a cup. The narrow, steep streets are saturated with fast moving cars. It has the highest auto accident rate in North America. The language of the islands is French. It is a part of France and has a representative in the French National Assembly. They speak French with an accent that comes not from the Acadian French of North America but the French spoken in France. To preserve their identity as French people, they route phone calls to the Canadian mainland through France and from there back to Canada, making a 3000 mile connection instead of a ten mile circuit.
Both the Quebecois and the people of St Pierre and Miquelon put a great deal of stress on the survival of their French identity. In so doing they maintain a living link that sheds light on the history and evolution of the French language. During the Three Weeks, thoughts of exile and maintaining Jewish identity are very much on my mind. The importance of language in shaping ones thoughts and expressing the soul is also something that occupies my thoughts during this time. I admire the people of St. Pierre for taking impractical measures for the greater purpose of maintaining their own identity. I admire the people of Quebec for maintaining a pride in their identity that has enabled them to enjoy a cultural resurgence. North American nationalism has been relatively bloodless in comparison to that of the Balkans and other trouble spots. In daring and wanting to maintain a connection to their heritage, they have given a gift to the world. The manner in which they approach the importance of the survival of their language seems to be a valuable lesson to Jews and to Americans in the importance of maintaining one's identity and the role of language in furtherance of that objective. There are lessons to be learned in comparing one's self to one's neighbours. The French of North America have provided me with much food for thought. For this I thank them.

The video with this posting is a slide show of St Pierre and Miquelon. It has a beautiful soundtrack of a Celtic rock band from France. I am mentioning this so thosw who are refraining from listening too music during the three weeks can be forewarned and turn the volume down.

You Tube Video of St. Pierre and Miquelon

No comments: