PERSPECTIVErnOther Peoplernby Thomas Flemingrna Iask myself: Wouldn’t I be better off, if we gave up speakingrnFrench? This is a question that m children, and everyonernin Quebec should ask themselves ecr’ dav.” The questionrnwas not entirely rhetorical. Like many French-Canadianrnintellectuals, Georges favors secession but broods over the pricernhe and his people had to pay for insisting on an independentrnQuebec. Although it was really none of m business, I told himrnthat he was only asking Esau’s question. Was his Frenchrnbirthright worth more to him than an Anglophone mess of pottage?rnFor the majority of French-Canadians in Quebec, the answerrnis unequivocally “yes,” even for those who voted “non” in thernlast referendum on independence. The Quebecois are an olderrnrace than either the Anglo-Canadians or the Anglo-Americansrnof North America, and, in some respects at least, they arernhaunted by the same memories that bedevil American Southerners.rnQuebec’s national motto, printed on every licensernplate, might have been drafted by Mel Bradford: “]e me souviens,”rnI remember. In the course of several days in Quebec justrnbefore Christmas, I met a lawyer who had voted no, becausernshe did not like Jacques Parizeau’s leftist polities, and a businessmanrnwho voted yes, but refuses to join the PQ, because it isrntoo much part of the “establishment.” I spoke with Quebecoisrnwho opposed secession from Canada but only if the provincerncould acquire virtual sovereigntv ocr internal affairs—a positionrnthat is hardly different from that of many PQ supporters,rnwho would like to see an independent Quebec as a member ofrna Canadian confederation.rnMost of the formal arguments put forward by the PQ arernconstitutional and economic, but the real ease for independencernwas put to me b’ a lady who told me that she enjoyed visitingrnthe United States, but wherever she found herself in thernrest of Canada, she knew that she was looked down on forrnspeaking French, for being Quebecois. One of the themes ofrnFrancis Parkman’s histories of the French in North America isrnthe contrast he makes between New Englanders and FrenchrnCanadians: the one, outward-looking and willing to acceptrnhardworking newcomers who would contribute to the colonv;rnthe other, inward-looking and suspicious of all those who werernneither Catholic nor French. The contrast is exaggerated, butrnwhile the ‘Yankees have long ago lost their identity’, the Frenchrnhave maintained and strengthened theirs. They have given uprntheir old hphenated minority style of French-Canadians andrntaken on the name Quebecois, making themselves the onlyrnnonhvphenated people of Canada. In their cultural island ofrnsix million Francophones, the people of Quebec have learnedrnto be content with their anomalous condition: French speakersrnon an English-speaking continent.rnI had not been in Quebec for 20 years, and I was once againrnsurprised bv how French the people really are: the faces, the gestures,rnthe attitudes, the cautious manner that disguises a kindrnheart. Georges, who wondered if he was not paying too high arnprice for speaking French, insisted that apart from language thernQuebecois were simply North American, hardly different fromrnthe people of Ontario or of the United States. But language isrnnot like an overcoat that we put on or take off, depending onrn8/CHRONICLESrnrnrn