Em­bar­rassed at Mcdon­ald’s

The Compass - - OPINION - — Greg Knott writes from St. John’s

I stopped by McDon­ald’s this morn­ing on the way to work and went in­side and bought a cof­fee. I felt shame and em­bar­rass­ment.

Not for the shame some peo­ple try to give me when I or­der fast food, as I love McDon­ald’s and don’t care what they think. Ev­ery­thing in mod­er­a­tion; Big Macs are delightful.

But I felt shame and em­bar­rass­ment to call my­self a New­found­lan­der and a Cana­dian.

We’ve all seen the news sto­ries of for­eign work­ers com­ing to the prov­ince. Many we see daily in the cof­fee shops and fast-food out­lets of the ser­vice in­dus­try. What hap­pened to me this morn­ing has hap­pened to me a cou­ple times over the past year. I’ve heard sim­i­lar sto­ries from friends as well. Stand- ing in line and watch­ing the go­ings on around me, one of the em­ploy­ees was call­ing out or­ders. He had a thick Span­ish ac­cent.

As he was call­ing out or­ders I heard snick­er­ing around me. Af­ter plac­ing my or­der, the man­ager called out an­other cus­tomer’s or­der.

The man came to the counter and was asked did he want some­thing to go along with his or­der. The cus­tomer asked the man to re­peat him­self sev­eral times. When he left the counter his friend joined him and mim­icked the man­ager’s ac­cent un­der their breath. They looked at me and smiled as if to in­clude me in their joke. I was gobsmacked.

Our cul­ture is a mash of English, Ir­ish, French and abo­rig­i­nal cul­tures, with a splash of this and that from around the world. It has been that way since our an­ces­tors came here cen­turies ago. Peo­ple have been mov­ing here from all around the world for cen­turies.

We are all new Cana­di­ans; some of us are just newer than oth­ers. We should be em­brac­ing the in­flux of peo­ple com­ing from other cul­tures and al­low them to make this their home as our de­scen­dents were al­lowed be­fore us.

We shouldn’t be mock­ing and mim­ick­ing some­thing as small as ac­cents. New­found­lan­ders should be sym­pa­thetic to this base ig­no­rance. I’ve been asked to talk “New­fie” sev­eral times when I’ve left the is­land.

Af­ter I’m long dead and gone and my descen­dants are roam­ing the earth, I would love to haunt them and hear traces of Spain, the Philip­pines or wher­ever in their lo­cal di­alects, mixed with the Ir­ish and English twangs we know to­day. I would love to see them sat down at Sun­day din­ner, and along­side the salt beef and pease pud­ding, a plate of kim­chi or chicken biryani. We wouldn’t be los­ing our cul­ture, but build­ing it. Cul­ture isn’t static; it should al­ways be evolv­ing.

I know this ig­no­rance is only dis­played and shared by a small num­ber of peo­ple. But one per­son with this at­ti­tude is un­ac­cept­able and shame­ful.

We pride our­selves on be­ing friendly and wel­com­ing, but we need to stop giv­ing lip ser­vice to this idea and ac­tu­ally prac­tice it. It’s one thing to be friendly; it’s an­other to be wel­com­ing. I’m a proud New­found­lan­der and Cana­dian, but to­day I was em­bar­rassed to call my­self ei­ther.

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