For me, that realization came early.
I remember as a toddler seated in the grocery cart, being pushed up and down the food-laden aisles in Steinberg's grocery store and pointing to all the things on the shelf that I wanted.
My demands, punctuated by tantrums and fits of tears, were met by a steely "NO" from my mother, who remained stoically unimpressed by my animated exhortations.
She didn't even explain why not. It was just the way it was.
As we grow older and mature, we learn that there will always be things that we want, which we cannot have, obstacles and circumstances that we cannot overcome or change, and that we must accept these things as they are, or else be doomed to grow up bitter, frustrated and unfulfilled.
As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous,
...Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...
There are unfortunately, too many language militants in Quebec who never understood this principle and have never come to accept the world-wide dominance of English, resulting in growing up, a frustrated and bitter bunch, doomed to see their dreams of glory, dashed over and over and over again.
And so they never accept the fact that there is nothing they can do to change the enduring fact that English dominates and that Quebec will never be immune from that effect. Never.
French language supremacists, continue to believe in a fantasy where everything and everybody cross an imaginary language curtain at the Quebec border, where all is magically transformed from English into French and from French to English upon leaving.
It is a childlike fantasy, as underscored by journalist Jean-François Lisée, who told a television audience recently that a Quebec based company, operating a powerful international conglomerate which uses English as the common corporate language around the world, can successfully manage its empire operating its head-office in French.
It's wishful thinking that plays to the innocent and naive, an unreality where French language militants believe that others will act not in their own selfish interests, but rather for the betterment of Quebec and the preservation and promotion of the French language.
They naively believe that legislation can cure the language defect, as if a law ordaining that summer be extended by three months can actually have an effect, based solely on the force of legislative will.
When faced with the cruel reality that such is not the case, there is nothing left but bitterness and rancour.
So let me pop another bubble.
Not even sovereignty can turn an English NHL team into a French or even bilingual NHL team, it just isn't in the cards.
If the Nordiques return to Quebec City and hire a French general manger and coach, the team will still operate in English, on the ice and in the dressing room, the use of French, an illusory veneer.
The other reality that sports writers and fans fail to understand or accept, is that hockey players have no interest in learning French whatsoever and few or none who come to play for the Canadiens will ever bother with anything more than a 'Merci-Bonjour.'
For most of these players, not from the highly educated class, its a struggle to learn English, but do so because it is critical to their success.
The idea that players toiling for the Canadiens will learn a third language, a language that they will almost never use, is nothing more than a fanciful pipe dream.
Rejean Tremblay the insufferable Francophone sportswriter, who brings language into practically every sports column he writes, is the poster boy of the indignant whiners, unable to understand or accept that for hockey players, learning French or becoming part of the French community is a non-starter.
Mr. Tremblay has in the past castigated Saku Koivu for having the audacity to remain captain of the beloved Habs for ten years without learning French as well as berating Andre Markov for his lack of French, on the occasion of him earning Canadian citizenship.
Each time I pass the Saku Koivu Cancer Centre in the Montreal General Hospital, I am reminded that the blowhard Tremblay has branded Koivu disrespectful and an enemy of the Quebec people.
So why the ferocious reaction by French language militants to an English coach or two unilingual bosses at the Caisse de dépôt or one English boss at the National Bank?
The reaction seems a little disproportionate.
Why so much rage and bluster?
It is in fact, a bigger, much bigger deal than we Anglos can fathom.
The existence of these unilinguals in Quebec puts paid to the myth pedalled by language supremacists that Quebecers need not learn English because the language curtain surrounding Quebec is inviolable.
It breaks the promise that everything entering Quebec will be translated and that every artist, athlete, boss or politician who sets foot in Quebec will learn and use French to communicate with employees, fans, friends and colleagues.
It makes mockery of the theory that Quebecers need not learn a second language because hockey players will learn a third.
And most importantly, it destroys the French language supremacy movement's most hallowed tenet, that Quebec can exist without English.
It is a big deal...a very big deal.
It is why little language issues are blown out of proportion.
Like in North Korea, Quebecers are indoctrinated with a fantastical bill of goods. They are told that English is irrelevant and unnecessary, while the rest of the world believes the opposite.
Like in North Korea, any real or perceived breech of this fantasy is met by a ferocious reaction by language protectors, doing their darnedest to hide the truth by obliterating reality.
And so Quebec has it's very own twenty-first version of the Bamboo or Iron Curtain, where language militants carefully attempt to stage society in their own Utopian image, to hide the reality of the outside world.
Zealots like Mario Beaulieu and Jean-François Lisée continue to discourage Quebecers from learning English by promising that they need not do so because the world will speak French to Quebec.
In this context, it is easy to understand the exaggerated reaction to English names on stores, English signs and yes, even English Quebecers, themselves.
Our very presence is a disturbance.
As long as we Anglos and Ethnics exist in Montreal, living our lives in English or bilingually, Quebecers are exposed to an alternate view of the universe, something French language militants cannot abide by.
The venomous attacks on bilingualism, remain a required element, if the myth of Quebec as a French-only society is to be preserved.
Let us remember, it is not only we Anglos and Ethnics who are targeted, but those francophones who refuse to drink the Cool-Aid and pursue bilingualism on there own. In the eyes of language supremacists, they are the the ultimate betrayers.
But there are devastating consequences to this manic pursuit of a non-existent French Shangrila.
Failure to accept the linguistic reality of the world, is a cancerous tumor on Quebec society, sapping the province of its strength and vitality.
|Beaulieu framed by "Down with Molson the Traitor" sign|
RACISTS MESSAGES OF HATE
The mantra of the militant leaders that their movement is not about the hatred of English, but rather about the promotion of French, is a lie that signs like these ones attest to.
What if Albertans had a demonstration and wore T-Shirts saying that there were too many Francophones in the federal government?
I'm sure Mr, Beaulieu and company would be screaming 'Francophobia' at the top of their lungs!
So what can we expect as a result of this demonstration and the messages of hate towards English in the Montreal Canadiens organization?
Loudly demanding that the Montreal Canadiens tilt towards French, has no other effect but to thin the ranks of those willing to try a career in Montreal, especially those elusive free agents who are presented with 29 less bothersome destinations to choose from.
|"Mr. Molson-There's too many Anglos on your Boat"|
And so the Montreal Canadiens brand will forever be diminished by the language brouhaha surrounding Randy Cunneyworth's unilingualism.
When he is ultimately sacrificed on the language altar, it will serve as a cautionary lesson to the entire NHL community.
Skip Montreal, it is a hateful place where English people who don't speak French are unwelcome.
If nice guys like Cunneyworth, Koivu and Markov are to be vilified ...well count me out.
Call it the 'Lindros Effect' or whatever.
Agents of star players will cross off Montreal from the list of acceptable destinations and so the Canadiens will choose from has-beens, also-rans and aging veterans closing out their career. Its already happened, but no one will admit it.
|"Montreal Is Under English Occupation"|
There is a price to pay for the foolish preoccupation of battling a language enemy that cannot be defeated.
Quebecers to this day have never realized what this preoccupation has cost them, shielded by successive governments which immunized them from the consequences through deficit spending and indulgent transfer payments from English Canada.
Quebec is on its way to a rendezvous with destiny.
When the province hits its fast approaching debt ceiling and the Rest of Canada decides to no longer support the current equalization program, it will be time to face the music.
Sadly, that swan song will be English.
POSTCRIPT;Having just completed the last episode of HBO's stunning hockey documentary, 24/7-Road to the Winter Classic, I am struck by the level of skill, toughness and dedication that professional hockey demands from every single one of its participants, on every single level.
|Unsuitable for the Canadiens?|
Imagine Flyers general manager Paul Holgren telling coach Peter Laviolette that a certain talented French player won't be playing in the Winter Classic because it's important that the English language be preserved as the dominant force in the NHL.
I daresay that the Flyers would have played a unilingual-Swahili-speaking-Black-half-Jewish/Muslim-dwarf, if they thought it could help them beat the Rangers.
Watching the virtuosic performances of both Peter Laviolette and John Tortorella behind the bench and in the dressing room, was nothing short of enthralling.
It was to say the least, an exceptional experience, one that made me feel as if I was spying secretly through a keyhole, a rare opportunity to observe two maestros at work in their natural element, akin to a National Geographic special observing wild animals in their natural habitat.
Masterfully combining toughness, sympathy with single-mindedness, both these gentlemen showed viewers what a top-notch NHL coach is made of.
It's hard to comprehend that should either of these men become available to coach the Canadiens, he would be automatically rejected over language. Bah!!!
One last thought...
Both Laviolette and Torts were pretty consistent, carrying the passion and animation displayed inside the dressing room out to behind the bench. What you saw inside you saw on the outside.
It got me thinking about that the deadpan expressionless, demeanour of the recently fired coach of the Canadiens, Jacques Martin.
If what we saw behind the bench, that aloof, dispassionate and unemotional attitude, carried into the Habs dressing room, well.....it was high time he was fired.
It takes a hell of a lot of talent to be an elite NHL coach and when French language supremacists tell us that they are a dime a dozen, I'll just beg to differ.
At any rate, it's like saying that rejecting a Placido Domingo, Yehudi Menuhin, Stephen Hawking or Lady GaGa over their lack of French is just fine, because there are plenty of capable Quebec francophones that can replace them.
Heaven Help the Montreal Canadiens!