Monday, May 21, 2007

Government sponsored Screech-ins

This letter to the Editor of the Telegram (published May 26/07) is in response to a column from Mr. Bill Rowe.


In his recently weekly column (“Is this how we see ourselves?”), Bill Rowe reprints parts of the Newfie Screech-in ceremony and crossly inquires if that is how we see ourselves. His question was “Where the hell do they get this stuff? This cliche-ridden, shallow, boozy, stereotypical tripe?”

In 1989, as a new staffer in the newly elected Office of the Premier of Clyde Wells, I poked around the office registry and discovered a huge stack of official Newfie Screech-in certificates.

I was told by the office registrar that the practice was to have them signed by the Premier and send them out upon request to anyone who asked. That policy had been in place for as long as she knew (no small amount of time).

Digging a little further, it turned out that the “age-old custom” of Screeching-in was originally developed in the 1960's as a marketing ploy by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation. The goal was to sell more Screech.

However embarrassing or demeaning it might seem now, this “ceremony” was the way we saw ourselves at one point in time. It was a provincial government-sponsored and provincial government-promoted point of view.

Maybe the lesson is that politicians and government agencies are not the best source of information about how we should feel about ourselves. Perhaps we would be better off deciding that independent of the politicians. At least that way our self-image won't be subject to the whims and vagaries of the people in office.

By the way, we shredded the remaining certificates and never sent out another.

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