Those demeaning, insufferable, Screech-ins
Do visitors to Scotland get Scotched in? Are visitors to Ireland welcomed to the auld sod by being invited to drink a pint of Guinness while reciting some polite meaningless Gaelic term equivalent to our, “Long may yer big jib draw!” before kissing that tourist germ-infested Blarney Stone?
When westerners visit Japan, are they Sackied in?
Why then in the name of a word that can’t be printed in a decent, Christian, family newspaper, must we in this province in 2012 persist with that embarrassing and demeaning spectacle otherwise known as the Newfie Screech-in?
If there is anything more offensive and nauseating than this act of self-deprecation, it has to be the use of the racist term, Newfie in its title.
It’s hard to fathom it’s now been more than two decades since a person of public stature no less than a former Newfoundland MP and Lieutenant Governor, James McGrath, first dared to suggest publicly that the Screech-in portrays an unflattering image of Newfoundlanders.
That was an understatement and a polite way of putting it.
My opinion of this pathetic practice has no time for political correctness.
There is just no subtle or polite way of putting it: Screech-ins make us look like a bunch of backward, inbred idiots, who just crawled up out of the rocks and stepped out of the backwoods around St. John’s.
For tourists and other visitors who already may have suspected us of being a bunch of goofy Newfies, who chug black rum and break into quaint little folk dances like the Tetley Tea folk for our care packages from Ottawa, whenever the tourist video cameras are rolling at a Screech-in, the footage only serves to remove all doubt.
While some find this custom of welcoming visitors to be cute, quaint, cuddly and quite harmless, I think the ridiculous ritual should be outlawed. Too bad you can’t legislate common sense. If Cathy Dunderdale or any of our representatives in the House of Assembly really want to do something tangible for our image as a have province to complement our rising economic status and those stunning tourism ads, they should do something to finally rid us of this Screech-in scourge.
While visitors to our shores can be forgiven for buying into the myth that we must be great seafood lovers, the closer version of the truth is that most Newfoundlanders would prefer a feed of take-out fast food with lots of chips, gravy, salt and vinegar than all the little fishies in fishing zone, 2J 3KL.
Besides, having just commemorated the 20th anniversary of the cod moratorium, instead of having to kiss a rotting, stinking cod, wouldn’t it be more fitting to pucker up for a crab, shrimp or even a sea cucumber, since those species have taken over the throne from king cod.
The script for the Screech-in is usually recited by some city person, making feeble attempts at mimicking a bay person, preferably a fisherperson, in an accent as false as an American stage Irishman trying to speak like a native steeped in the River Shannon.
As we cringe in some dark corner, those of us who know the difference are painfully aware that no person from any bay or anywhere else ever actually spoke in such gibberish.
Expressions like “long may yer big jib draw!” are about as authentic as the Irish, “Top o the mornin’!, which was probably never uttered by any real Irish person, at least not outside of East Boston.
In the most quaint coves and crannies around any bay, you are more likely to hear something like: “Catch ya later man! Or cool! than Long may yer big whatever do whatever.
In the 63 years since Confederation, we’ve come a long way baby! We’re no longer ashamed of our heritage and culture as we were in the fabulous 50s and times changin’60s.
In stark contrast, we’re so proud of our culture now; we showcase it at numerous folk festivals and other events. Our brilliantly talented young artists take it to the world’s stage.
Like Quebec, culturally, we are another distinct society within Canada. No better than anyone else. But certainly no lesser. We’re no longer content to sit in the back of that proverbial bus. We shed our inferiority complexes at least three decades ago.
So why must we insist on carrying on a practice that only serves to perpetuate the stereotype?
We raise the Screech-in issue here and now because, as unbelievable as it seems, the demeaning practice is still alive and well. An event dubbed the world’s largest Screech-in was recently held in our capital city.
Outlaw Screech-ins. Please do it immediately if not sooner. Bill Bowman, editor