“Time heals all wounds.” This is a common saying usually retorted by a consoling mother in the wake of her teenage daughter’s break-up. Or a cliché saying whispered into the mourning ear of a widow as she sees her husbands coffin closed at a funeral. But for us Cajuns, the saying “Time heals all wounds” would be better said “Time fades all memories.” A man may have spent his whole life in the heart of Acadiana and could trace all his lineage back to rocky shores of our former maritime home. For many though the story of the their forefathers being murdered by anglos and dispersed across God’s green earth like ash in the wind only vaguely rings a bell. “Maybe I heard about that in a 3rd grade history class” “My grandmother mentioned that once.”
According the the United Nations 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as contained in Article II ratified that in order for a phenomena to be labeled “Genocide” it must meet certain criteria.
A.) Killing members of the group.
B.) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
C.) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
D.) Imposing measures to prevent birth (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to an other group.
Do us Cajuns meet these qualifications? It is so unquestionable that even the most ardent Anglophile could not deny Acadians died due to the Expulsion. Some figures list fatality rates as high as 53% of the Acadian population dying in the process!
Did the expulsion cause serious bodily or mental harm? Yes, absolutely. Many Acadians were interned on ships for months at a time living under conditions most would deem inhumane for a lowly vermin. This qualification albeit may be a bit relative, especially the clause of “mental” harm. But if these are the guidelines and standards set the Acadians of the expulsion certainly experienced them.
As for the third clause us Acadians most certainly experienced this. Some would argue the entire aim of the expulsion would be to meet that end of bring destruction to our group. They isolated us, and dispersed us to lands far away it is practically impossible that the ethnic group deemed “Acadians” could survive under such conditions as a coherent entity. This is evidenced by the creolization of the various pockets of the surviving ethnic acadians upon arriving to their new destinations.
Then there is the final clause. And all ready images are conjured in my mind of the statue of Evangeline sitting along bayou Têche at St. Martinville. One of the most notable features of the expulsion was the dispersal of Acadian women and children into the thirteen Anglo American colonies. While essentially entirely Americanized you can still recognize the faces of Acadians and occasionally names as well of those children dispersed amongst the Anglo even into today. This separation is not the subject of a macabre romanticization of our strife. It is a widely accepted historical fact of the matter.”Well why does it matter that happened so many years ago?” “You need to let go of that stuff your life isn’t affected by the expulsion!” (I would contest that point.) Could you imagine for a moment if say a Black American were told to “get over slavery” because it happened long ago. Or perhaps if a Jew had been told to “Get over the holocaust.” You would be lambasted as the most insensitive man alive. But for us Cajuns we do not experience the same deference afforded to other groups who experience tragedy. We’re told to suck it up, learn English, go to university, take out a loan, chomp down on a Big Mac, buy a house in the Suburbs and be grateful to live in the “Greatest country in the world.”
I understand that the expulsion occurred a long time ago and I think it would be a disservice to our ancestors and ourselves alive today to believe our identity is centered around tragedy. Acadians through gritty perseverance have managed to tame the most adverse environments, whether they be the wave battered, icy shores of Canada or the mosquito infested sauna like swamps of Louisiana and create a home for ourselves filled with love, laughter, and joïe de vivre.
However, there is an old notion that a man does not die only once but in fact dies twice. His first death is his physical death, when biological functions cease and decomposition commences. The second death is the last time his name is spoken. It would be foolhardy to assert the Acadians are some sort of all powerful empire like Rome or Greece and that we were the premier force in the world to be reckoned with. We were then as we are now, a humble simple people. We love our families and clans, we love our Catholic Church and we love our way of life. And if our own sons and daughters do not know the names of their forefathers who suffered and died at the hands of the Anglo during the expulsion. We could not expect that an outsider ever would.
Sons of Acadia I implore you. Do not allow the atomizing and misanthropic allure of Anglo American life to render your memory blank of the perennial lesson our forefathers learned like so many nations learned before them. You can not expect others to care more about your people than you care about them yourself. “Buy! Buy! Buy! Consume! Consume! Consume!” *scoff* ” Why cling to the antiquated identity forged and endowed to you by your forefathers when you can simply buy an identity at your local strip mall?” “Wanna be an outdoorsman we got the bag and jacket for you!” “Wanna be an Athlete? Try these nikes!” Much like being on a basketball team does not actually make you a good basketball player the products you consume do not make you who you are.
We died our first death aboard those ships in the Atlantic. While it may not be possible to learn all the names of those who met a watery grave. You can prevent the second death. However it requires revolutionary action. Not action in the sense of warfare of violence. Revolution in the sense that you reject Anglo machine trying to metabolize you into nothing and be yourself. Be your true self. You are the son of Le Beausoleil, and Père Le Loutre. You do not need to lead some political awakening to honor the memory of those killed. You can honor their memory by practicing the ways of life which they gave us and would rather die than give up. Be you, be a Cajun.
By Jean-Baptiste Boudreaux on Arcadianrevival.home.blog.com