Friday, September 22, 2006

Jan Wong's Twisted View of Quebec

Before I start I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I despise Jan Wong. I started to dislike her when I heard that the spoiled little rich girl had gone to China in 1972, swooned over the brutish Red Guards, and turned in a fellow student for asking questions about how people lived in the decadent wealthy West. Say what?

That dislike grew when she started to write her hideous gossipy lunch columns. Where she lulled a procession of third rate celebrities into a false sense of security by plying them with wine and scampi. And then bit them like a piranha. Jan could you please pass the pepper? Is it bigger than a bread box? Yes. Gottcha. Ouch!!

By the time she wrote her monstrous opus about how hard it is to be a maid, I positively loathed her.








The thought of that little Red Guard scrubbing away and then being chauffered home to her palatial quarters drove me to distraction.Made me think of places where she should stick her broom, that I'd rather not mention.

But her latest journalistic atrocity... Where she blames French Quebecers, and their culture and language laws, for the Dawson College tragedy, and other mass murders. Well that one just makes me vomit.

"What many outsiders don't realize is how alienating the decades-long linguistic struggle has been in the once-cosmopolitan city. It hasn't just taken a toll on long-time anglophones, it's affected immigrants, too. To be sure, the shootings in all three cases were carried out by mentally disturbed individuals. But what is also true is that in all three cases, the perpetrator was not pure laine, the argot for a “pure” francophone. Elsewhere, to talk of racial “purity” is repugnant. Not in Quebec."

Her idiot story has created quite a fuss in the province. If you read French you can read more about about it here Jean Charest was quick to demand an apology. Along with the blowhards from the St Jean Baptiste Society And now so has Stephen Harper. Even though many of his supporters, and sadly many other Canadians, agree with Wong's twisted view of Quebec. But I sure don't.

Maybe there is something about Quebec that can contribute to the alienation of certain new Canadians, caught between the old ways and the new ones. Maybe as Francine Pelletier said the other day it's harder for some new immigrants to Quebec to find their place, when the society they live in is still looking for its place. But I think it could happen just as easily in Toronto or Vancouver because English Canada is still looking for its identity as well. It's part of our common new immigrant story.

But one thing I'm sure of is that the killings in Quebec didn't have anything to do with the efforts of Quebecers to hang onto and develop their rich and beautiful French language and culture. Nothing to do with the so-called "language police." To suggest that they did is outrageous. To suggest that Quebecers are obsessed with racial purity is disgusting and unforgivable.

And she's done it before many times. She's a repeat offender. She once made a big deal of a quote from an Ethiopian cab driver who said separatists didn't give him any tips. I could go on and on about that, and get really angry.But I'd rather tell my little immigrant story.








As I've mentioned before I arrived in the magical city by the St Lawrence when I was a young teenager. And I have to admit I was kind of shocked at first. I knew that there were supposed to be a lot of French people, but I didn't realize there were that many! Tabarnac. Ooh la la.

But when I did realize the situation I made every possible effort to get to know them and learn all about their culture. I think it was love at first sight, but I quickly realized that I would never really know them, or love them, or feel like I was in my home or chez moi as we say in Quebec, until I busted through the two solitudes, learned their language and made their culture part of mine. So I did.

I learned their language, I studied their history, I listened to their music, I read their newspapers, watched their movies. I watched the news and hockey games in French. I learned their great swear words and joualisms, and all the sexy words too. And boy did it pay off. It opened up a whole new world. Made me all kinds of new friends. And one very special one. It didn't diminish my own identity one bit. It just made it richer,

I'm not going to pretend that it was always easy. In a group of French guys I still sometimes feel like the English one. Sometimes we disagree about politics. I want to be both a Quebecer and a Canadian. Most of my French friends don't. Although if Quebecers ever vote to separate I'll support them because I'll know Canada wasn't big enough to deserve them.

But I can truthfully say that never ever has a French Quebecer shown any hostility towards me because I'm an anglo. Or for that matter because I'm gay. Oh and in case you read this post and wondered who the bullies who bullied me were. They were Portuguese not French. Like the guy who saved me was.

I might mangle their beautiful language occasionally and my written French still sucks. Sometimes when Sebastien's friends from the Saguenay talk too fast I can't always follow the conversation. But they pick up on that and slow down. And they always make me feel welcome. They know that I am making a real effort and above all that I respect them. Because that's what it's really all about.





You can shout "We love you Quebec" in English all you like. As they did in Montreal during the last referendum.But you can't love anyone, let alone a people and a culture, unless you respect them first.

Unfortunately some anglo Quebecers couldn't do that. They couldn't accept the new Quebec reality. They couldn't bother to learn French. They couldn't leave their anglo enclaves and embrace a larger world. When French Quebecers finally stood up for their language, many Anglos left the province and some of them started building up a myth of Quebec as an oppressive Nazi place. When in fact it's the most socially progressive and tolerant province in Canada, and its people are among the warmest people on earth. Just as Montreal is still the greatest and most truly cosmopolitan city in Canada.

Jan Wong speaks for those bitter exiles. The pieds-noirs as they called them in Algeria. But she sure as hell doesn't speak for me or most anglo Quebecers.

She really should apologize for her false and crass caricature, but I'm not asking her to do that. I just want her to try to learn more about Quebec before she shoots her mouth off again. And spreads false and dangerous myths that could spread like poison, and come back to haunt us all some day.

I want her to write another huge opus magnus. Even bigger than the maid one. Except that this time instead of playing a maid, I want her to live in French for a month, change her name from Jan to Jeanne, and play being a Quebecoise. Maybe she'd finally learn to respect Quebecers, and celebrate them for the amazing people, culture and nation they are. And tell the rest of Canada how great they are as well.

And if she still doesn't get it? Well in that case I suggest the Globe pack her off to a grim re-education camp in let's see ......um.....Chibougamou. For at least five years.

Oh I know it would be harsh. Terribly harsh. But she deserves it.

And I know the Little Red Guard will understand. And go quietly.

Just like the student she turned in...

8 comments:

  1. Merci pour le lien vers mon article sur Jan Wong.

    Au plaisir de vous lire!

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  2. de rien Vincent et merci...c'est un vrai plaisir pouvoir dire merci Quebec...et battre la con Wong au meme temps!

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  3. I suppose Jan thinks of herself as some kind of Journalist/Social Anthropologist and that precludes her from getting too close to any situation. Whatever, it’s just her shtick, I stopped paying attention to her years ago.

    I fell absolutely madly in love with Montreal the first time I went there. I remember walking around downtown and thinking that even though I don’t know the language, somehow this place suits my sensibilities. I even started looking for an apartment there, once I figured out what that 4 1/2, 5 1/2… business was all about. I decided it would make work too difficult and I hate the climate as much as I love the people.

    You can’t know Canada without at least getting to know a little about Quebec, and the only way you can do that is to go there. We have a wonderful French culture that thrives against all odds and if they seem to get a little uptight about it, they have every reason to. They’re surrounded by people who just don’t get it, like Jan Wong.

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  4. Hey Bruce cool comment...I know what you mean about that Montreal feeling...it's a very easy city to live in. On the other hand it is a lot colder than Toronto or Vancouver! Although to tell you the truth I love all that snow, and those bright blue winter days. And I luvved those 5 1/2 apartments with the high ceilings !!!! Although a few years ago they also used to be cheap. And now they're not...
    Finally you're right about Wong.I simply should ignore her. By now she's probably incorrigible. She's now accusing those who criticize her of being racists. Of treating her like....are you ready? An Asian. Isn't that a laugh? Besides as daddy Sebastien said the other day. Why bother to take anger management if you're going to read her merde or shite? From now on I'm going to carry a zippo and a pair of scissors with me. So I can cut her column out and burn it, before I read the Globe....

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  5. I just wanted to say that I had much the same reaction to Jan Wong (or Ms. WRONG as I've taken to calling her). I was SO overcome by disgust that I didn't do an entry in my own blog for several days. Instead, I went around to other blogs denouncing her claims as the idiocy it so plainly is.

    On a sidenote, I would also like to congratulate you on your nomination for the Canadian Blog Awards. Well done!

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  6. Hi Al thanks for stopping by...I'm glad you share my opinion of the Little Red Guard. She really is a nuisance. She should either move back and re-educate herself. Or just shut up...

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  7. I believe your dislike for Jan Wong's opinion on Quebec society has lead you to misrepresent her time in Maoist China and the incident in which she turns in her fellow student.

    The reason why you even know of this past is because she has written and spoken on the subject. If you had read her books and heard her interviews firsthand, you would know more than what her naysayers have had to contribute about her young adult years.

    In your blog, you don't take into account the political and societal climate both here in North America and in China in the 1970's that idealized collectivism. You don't consider the machinations that were in place in China to keep their foreign students naive. You also don't allow that Jan Wong is the one to reveal her wrongdoings and is the first to acknowledge her own follies. Finally, that she reinitiated contact with the wronged student to do what she could to make amends and was forgiven by her.

    You do a disservice to your main argument when you play loosely with the truth.

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  8. Hi Anna...look I was angry when i wrote that post because I felt she was being so wrong and unfair. But looking at the post maybe I was a bit harsh on Jan. I would change the end and not refer again to that incident. I really don't want to blow that incident out of proportion. If I didn't forgive youthful folly how could I live with myself. I quite enjoy her writing and as long as I don't have to buy it I look forward to reading her new book. ;) I just strongly disagree with her views on Quebec, because I think they feed into some ugly myths about Quebec held by less intelligent people than Jan, and I think they're bad for national unity.
    I'm not saying she's a bad person. Just that those views are bad...

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