I'm a Newfoundlander, luh

Peter
Peter Jackson
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My friend Russell is a smart fellow. He writes two columns in The Telegram every week, as well as most of the editorials. He's been working in the media in Newfoundland since the 1980s. He also writes books and wins awards.

Nonetheless, according to Senator George Baker, among others, Russell is not qualified to say anything of relevance about local issues. The reason? Well, he wasn't born here. He was born in Connecticut but grew up as a Bluenoser, a Nova Scotia boy.

My friend Russell is a smart fellow. He writes two columns in The Telegram every week, as well as most of the editorials. He's been working in the media in Newfoundland since the 1980s. He also writes books and wins awards.

Nonetheless, according to Senator George Baker, among others, Russell is not qualified to say anything of relevance about local issues. The reason? Well, he wasn't born here. He was born in Connecticut but grew up as a Bluenoser, a Nova Scotia boy.

I, on the other hand, would seem fully qualified to pass judgment on local affairs.

My mother was born in King's Point, Green Bay, and grew up further along the shore in Burlington. My father was born on Bell Island - not only an islander, but an islander islander.

His father was a Welsh clergyman who helped pioneer the co-operative movement in Newfoundland. My uncle wrote for The Telegram during the Confederation debates.

So, you see, I come from solid Newfoundland stock (not counting the Welsh connection). Unlike those wretched come-from-aways, I'm infinitely more qualified to wax on about Newfoundland till I'm blue in the face. I'm a True Newfoundlander, me son, and I'll be one till I dies.

Except ...

There's only one, tiny problem: I wasn't born here either.

I was born in Nova Scotia, while my father was studying at Dalhousie. As a toddler, I even lived a couple of years in Toronto (saints preserve us!) before my parents finally moved back to the motherland.

Thus, I wasn't fully raised here. My infant years - the crucial bonding years - were spent on mainland soil. The first air I breathed was mainland air. My first steps were mainland steps. My Newfoundland soul was contaminated from Day 1. I am, in short, impure.

I'll admit, the shame of this horrible secret is too much to bear at times. I think of it every time I fire up the word processor. It needles at my conscience every time I dig into a hunk of salt beef or a mustard pickle. It haunts me every time I croon those wonderful verses of the "Ode." Where once our fathers stood, we stand? Perhaps, but at least they were born here.

I try to fit in - believe me, I do. I go past the overpass every chance I get. I attended school in St. Mary's Bay when I was 12. I helped skin a moose once. It wasn't easy, but I did it. I like hanging out on wharves, too, or in the shed with a box of beer.

My views, I think, are inherently Newfoundland-centric. I pine for home whenever I'm away. I dutifully rail against Ottawa's mistreatment of the province, especially when the complaint is a valid one.

I love to welcome visitors to the province. I enjoy taking on the role of tour guide. I will do everything to make my guests' stay memorable, short of subjecting them to a Screech-in.

I have, over the years, slowly come to feel comfortable in my Newfoundland skin. But now, I fear, that old birth certificate may come back to haunt me.

Some Newfoundland nationalists have taken on a nasty tone lately. It's one thing to be proud of your roots, but it's another to question others'.

These neo-nationalists put the purity of your Newfoundland-ness under a microscope.

Everyone has to be on the same page, to be "standing up" for Newfoundland. If you dare deviate at all, your patriotism is attacked and, if applicable, your birth certificate is trotted out.

That's why I get particularly edgy when I hear Premier Danny Williams refer to preferred citizens as "true" or "proud" Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. And worse, those who stray from the fold are said to be "traitors" who have "betrayed" their countrymen.

People go against the prevailing wind for a number of reasons. Sometimes they just like to be the fly in the ointment.

Sometimes it's simple partisanship.

Often, though, citizens have legitimate questions about government policy. Those who do should not have their cultural integrity and loyalty dragged through the mud.

I say, let's nip this jingoism in the bud before it gets out of hand.

So, Senator Baker, please don't hate me because of my birthplace. I really do care about Newfoundland and Labrador, and I'm sure you do, too.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram's editorial page editor. He can be contacted by e-mail at pjackson@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Connecticut Green Bay Burlington Bell Island Toronto Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Corey
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Agreed Frank; & we've seen plenty of awful winters here in Newfoundland( although this year isn't one of them ). I guess it just wouldn't be the same here without Ol' Man Winter & Sheila's Brush making their annual rounds here in our grand province.

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    What does luh mean? Some up-along saying I suppose. I was born and resided in Newfoundland for 27 years, and the word luh is new to me.

    I even consulted the Dictionary of Newfoundland English without success. Please enlighten us, Mr. Jackson.

  • Rick
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    To those who wish Newfoundland independance....Go and be done with it. We are sick of the bellyaching and blame placed on the Central Government for your preceived raw deal. Quite frankly we're sick of you suckling on our cracked and aching teats. As for the rest of you, your welcome to stay. Truth be told we are a better nation with you, but don't overestimate the tears on our part should you turn your backs on us. Saddist thing will be not having Danny Williams to giggle at anymore, that guy is better than the Just for Laughs comedy specials. Morning radio from Quebec to B.C. bring smiles to the rest of us talking about that clowns latest antics.

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    My rule of thumb is: If you've willingly spent one entire winter here, and stayed, you can call yourself a Newfoundlander.

  • Winston
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Great column!

  • Peter
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    John:
    Luh is a phoenetic spelling of the word look in certain local accents. The headline is actually a phrase from an early Codco skit where instructors are trying to teach immigrants how to talk like a Newfoundlander.
    Perhaps the reference was too obscure.

  • Peter
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Birthright is simply a matter of fate.

    Often overrated it does, however, transcend state, ethnicity, religion, bureaucracy and politics.

    Nationalists are always cloaked in patriotism first. They often cling to the birthright as a unifying criteria until ethnicity clashes with their politics.

    Loyalty can be fickle, hearts can be broken, souls can be lost but those that mess with the humble birthright fight a futile battle.

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Well put Peter. I feel much the same wherever I may be..
    There is something still very magnetic about Newfoundland and Labrador that has a kind of a driving force to talk about our homeland to strangers no matter where they come from globally.I have talked about Newfoundland in many countries over a good BQ, french cuisine, whatever and wherever. Despite the good cuisine, atmosphere and people,, I get to tell people they must visit Newfoundland and Labrador , in this great country, Canada.

    Frank Blackwood

  • Corey
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Agreed Frank; & we've seen plenty of awful winters here in Newfoundland( although this year isn't one of them ). I guess it just wouldn't be the same here without Ol' Man Winter & Sheila's Brush making their annual rounds here in our grand province.

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    What does luh mean? Some up-along saying I suppose. I was born and resided in Newfoundland for 27 years, and the word luh is new to me.

    I even consulted the Dictionary of Newfoundland English without success. Please enlighten us, Mr. Jackson.

  • Rick
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    To those who wish Newfoundland independance....Go and be done with it. We are sick of the bellyaching and blame placed on the Central Government for your preceived raw deal. Quite frankly we're sick of you suckling on our cracked and aching teats. As for the rest of you, your welcome to stay. Truth be told we are a better nation with you, but don't overestimate the tears on our part should you turn your backs on us. Saddist thing will be not having Danny Williams to giggle at anymore, that guy is better than the Just for Laughs comedy specials. Morning radio from Quebec to B.C. bring smiles to the rest of us talking about that clowns latest antics.

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    My rule of thumb is: If you've willingly spent one entire winter here, and stayed, you can call yourself a Newfoundlander.

  • Winston
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Great column!

  • Peter
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    John:
    Luh is a phoenetic spelling of the word look in certain local accents. The headline is actually a phrase from an early Codco skit where instructors are trying to teach immigrants how to talk like a Newfoundlander.
    Perhaps the reference was too obscure.

  • Peter
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    Birthright is simply a matter of fate.

    Often overrated it does, however, transcend state, ethnicity, religion, bureaucracy and politics.

    Nationalists are always cloaked in patriotism first. They often cling to the birthright as a unifying criteria until ethnicity clashes with their politics.

    Loyalty can be fickle, hearts can be broken, souls can be lost but those that mess with the humble birthright fight a futile battle.

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    Well put Peter. I feel much the same wherever I may be..
    There is something still very magnetic about Newfoundland and Labrador that has a kind of a driving force to talk about our homeland to strangers no matter where they come from globally.I have talked about Newfoundland in many countries over a good BQ, french cuisine, whatever and wherever. Despite the good cuisine, atmosphere and people,, I get to tell people they must visit Newfoundland and Labrador , in this great country, Canada.

    Frank Blackwood