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Tout le Monde en Parle

An Interview with Zachary Richard from Canadian television
Translated from the French by Johanna Hébert

GAL = Guy A. Lepage
DP = Danny Turcotte
Z = Zachary

GAL: Zachary, welcome to Tout le Monde en Parle. You just arrived from Louisiana; your corner of the country which was devastated by hurricane Katrina on the 29th of August and hurricane Wilma which is now moving towards the East coast. Before you came to Montreal did you hammer shut your windows and doors?

Z: It is Rita which we worried the most about in my country. I live in the zone which we call Katrita if you put together both names, Katrina and Rita. Rita we speak much less about, but it was a lot more devastating in the smaller communities. It struck the heart of Acadiana.

GAL: What they are announcing about Wilma for the weekend, does it worry you?

Z: Of course. As soon as a hurricane arrives in the gulf, you never know where it will hit. It can pass through Florida and finish in Louisiana. Certainly it is worrisome and we have had quite enough for the moment. We hope it will cause the least damage possible and that it stays anywhere but in Louisiana.

GAL: Zachary, the crew from Le Point has filmed your hometown after Katrina, let's see an extract of it: Thousands of people in Louisiana lost everything, their family, their friends, their house, their belongings, their job, their district. After two months, how is moral over there?

Z: (Sigh) What can we do? Look at it this way, we lost everything and we love this country, our ancestors are buried here and anyway, we can't leave. The man in the film is called Pat Ménard, he is 66 years old, and he lost everything. His fields are ruined by salt water. What we can't see on this film, and don't realise is that Louisiana stinks literally. Everywhere it stinks. All is rotting, and when we go to New Orleans, we constantly hear warnings on the radio about mold and fungus, because if you don't clean your houses, you will have respiratory problems forever eventually. So this is our daily reality - having lost all, what can we do? You awake the following day and you do the best you can. Life becomes so intense and essential that you don't have the leisure to think of anything but this. You do what is necessary to do.

GAL: Some say that to rebuild New Orleans would be a mistake, what do you think?

Z: I think it is a terrible bag of knots, a real “Catch 22". I am outraged by the failure of the governments in this crisis. The city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana and especially the American government abandoned the citizens in the worst of situations. What do we do now? We have a city in which the different districts are such a complete disaster that it is not worth the trouble. We should have never built in these areas. But here is the problem: there are neighborhoods which are primarily black districts, therefore to take them down poses an extremely difficult political problem because we could be accused of racism. The most intelligent thing would be to take precisely those neighborhoods down and to let them turn back to marshland. The other thing which upsets me terribly, is the way this rebuilding is done; taking advantage of the situation in the worst way. Just like in Iraq there are no public hearings, and there is no competition for the contracts which are given. The city of New Orleans is now a city which is emptied of it's Black community. In a city which is mainly Black, they import Hispanics to do the work. Why? Because Hispanics agree on staying 25 in a hotel room. In fact these contracts are given to profit people whom are buddies of the American Vice-president, HALLIBURTON'S BROWN & ROOT. They will leave with their pockets full of money while the people of New Orleans who need employment, living like refuges and dispersed everywhere in the country, will not be able to return to the city that they love to clean, because the jobs are taken by others.

GAL: George Bush excused himself for the delays of his government to intervene in New Orleans. Did you accept his excuses?

Z: There were nearly 50, 000 people in New Orleans abandoned to their fate during three days, without water, without food, it is unacceptable! There were 100,000 people in the city of New Orleans who were without vehicles. So when the order of evacuation came, it is obvious these people could not leave. These people are the poor, the sick and the aged and it is these people whom the government abandoned to their fate. So do I accept his excuses? Excuses are not a solution to the problem and I think that history will judge this government, this administration and their actions rather severely.

GAL: It is the 250th anniversary this year of the deportation of the Acadian people, which occurred in 1755 and you draw a parallel between the deportation of Acadians and the forced exodus of the Louisiana population after the passage of Katrina. What is that parallel?

Z: I always insist on parallels because I try to keep the Acadien identity alive in my country. One of the great consequences or great losses of these hurricanes will be eventually the French culture in Louisiana. Hurricane Rita devastated the country sufficiently to have the schools closed down. They will build new schools, but will the French have a place there? That remains to be seen. I seize the opportunity of your welcoming me here to solicit all the Québécois and Québécoises to support Solidarité Louisiane which is a foundation that we started to give assistance not only to the victims of the hurricanes but also to maintain a francophone aspect in this relief assistance.

GAL: There are 260,000 Cajuns who still speak French in Louisiana. Your parents, just as the following generations, were quickly assimilated, why? Did they want to become American anglophones?

Z: My father and my mother went to school at six years old, and they had never heard an English word. They were confronted by the American institution. We were humiliated, beaten and mistreated when we spoke French. So for Cadiens, the English language of Americans represented social, economical and political prestige and French was associated with ignorance and poverty. When such pressure is applied with this kind of propaganda on six and seven year old children, it leaves traces. It is an extremely complex situation, we are very proud but at the same time, there is a certain tendency to always accept that French belongs to the second class.

GAL: In celebration of this 250th anniversary of the deportation of Acadians, this Saturday the University of Moncton is giving you an honorary doctorate in music for your talent, but also for your dedication; Congratulations! (applause)

DT: At last something positive! *LOL*

GAL: In the middle of the seventies the Quebecois adopted you. Let's go back 30 years to Lise Payette's show - Manon hit the button!
How does it feel to see yourself 30 years younger?

DT: Do you recognise the Guy? *lol*

Z: What it does to me! It's a pleasure; it's as if it was another life somewhere. It's true when I think about it, it's been a long time since I first came to Quebec and I have had a privileged relationship with the Quebecois. The first time I came here, I was received with wide opened arms, and have felt at home here ever since.

GAL: Zachary we will listen to some of your songs... (they play, "Travailler c'est trop dur", "Jean Batailleur", "Petit Kodiac", "l'Arbre est dans ses feuilles")

Was Jean Batailleur you?

DT: This was one of Wilfred's songs right? *LOL* (Wilfred won Star Académie, the Canadian American Idol. His signature song was Jean Batailleur which is also on Zach’s Cap Enragé.)

Z: *LOL* Exactly! In fact, it is a traditional song which Wilfred redid and that I recorded afterwards. We are all Acadiens! In each of us there is a self-destructive tendency, this is what Jean Batailleur is. In my village, (I am certain that many Quebecois relate to this) there are people who like Booga Dooga at home, would drink a beer and then eat the glass of the bottle. He would grab wasps nests in his bare hands and did something else with cases of sweet potatoes.

GAL: Did he do football initiations with those cases? With sweet potatoes? My head is rushing with images right now.*LOL*

Z: What you imagine is a lot weirder, so we'll leave it alone. He was somewhat of an inspiration but it is also a sort of violence which we see in isolated, remote communities. A little of the Jean Batailleur resides inside us all.

GAL: Let's try and discover some of your feelings about the USA. Zachary give us a reason for which you are proud to be American?

Z: The courage of the people and their generosity towards one another.

GAL: A reason why you are not so proud to be American?

Z: The current government administration.

GAL: The most beautiful American invention?

Z: Telephone

GAL: The worst?

Z: The atomic bomb.

GAL: The best thing the USA brought to the whole world.

Z: Democracy

GAL: The worst the USA brought to the whole world.

Z: Arrogance

GAL: What is the biggest difference between the US and Quebec?

Z: French

GAL: Which American city is the most beautiful?

Z: New Orleans

GAL: Which American city is the ugliest?

Z: New Orleans

GAL: Gastronomic Category: the best American dish for you?

Z: Gumbo Cadien

GAL: Most disgusting?

Z: Hot dog

GAL: What could be a strange thing for someone to experience going to the US for the first time?

Z: Louisiana, because it is a banana republic. It's not like the other states and we speak French.

GAL: Do you own a gun?

Z: No

GAL: Do you Like baseball?

Z: Yes

GAL: The North, the South, the White, the Blacks, the Hispanics, the cities, the rural areas, is the USA less and less united?

Z: Yes

GAL: What is the biggest problem the US will have to face during the next few years?

Z: Social problems. Reconciliation of the rich and the poor.

GAL: What makes you the most hopeful about your country?

Z: The People

GAL: Zachary are you staying with us for the rest of the show?

Z: yes

DT: One moment! I have a little souvenir for Zachary.

GAL: Oh! A card.

DT: By the way Zachary, the telephone is a Canadian invention.

Z: Another dissolving illusion! (He looks at the card and says:) "Oh! Yes but that can be fixed! (reading the card out loud) We would love to come and help you out but "Travailler c'est trop dur!" *lol*

Webmaster's note: Due to the necessity of translation by one individual, and editing by another, the wording in this interview is at times a bit awkward. This is not in any way indicative of the manner in which Zachary expresses himself, rather it is a function of maintaining the meaning to the best of my ability.

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