Those de­mean­ing, in­suf­fer­able, Screech-ins

The Compass - - OPINION -

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

The Com­pass

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