When I was a kid we had two posters hanging in our rec-room: one was JFK, the other Pierre Trudeau. It should have been Trudeau and Levesque.
Growing up as a kid Levesque terrified me. I was certain he was aiming for the destruction of me and my family. He was small. He was ugly. He chain-smoked. He spoke the worst Quebecois joual.
I was wrong.
I feel a strange fraternity with Rene. It started on a visit to Quebec City two years ago where I was compelled to visit the Assemble Nationale. By accident I stubbled upon his statue at the front of the building. Then I discovered we had a kinship (Rene est une Acadie comme moi; il est ne a Cambelton et mes famillies sont de Bathurst au Nouveau Brunswick).
But there are other things. I remember I was quite upset when they changed the name of rue Dorchester in Montreal to Blvd. Rene Levesque. This was the street where my sister and I would arrive on visits to Montreal by the train station (who were these Patriotes to change that name?). Later I thought, but who-the-hell was Dorchester?
If you don’t know Rene Levesque, you need to Google him: A founder of Cite Libre with Trudeau, Gérard Pelletier, and Pierre Vallières… great Quebec thinkers. A man of passion and precision; a Separatists, but of non-violent means.
It is strange. I have felt lately a reckoning with Quebec coming on. Some sort of understanding. Because I grew up English there, without any understanding of the culture. And now I must pay that price. I have expressed this sometimes as a “Stockholm Syndrome”: a great guilt for my lack of understanding.
I have a great dream. In the dream I return to Quebec after many years. And all my sins are forgiven.