Saturday, August 06, 2005

It's Pronounced "Michelle" Right? And She Was a Model?

Oh, a television presenter. For CityTV? Sorry, the CBC.

As ever, the Liberal government—in its hideously vain attempts at being a kind of collective of Abraham Lincolns for the 21st century—sets a brave new standard for cynicism and, indeed, racism in the great white north.

Some time ago, I remember Andrew Coyne using the phrase “shrugging complicity” to describe the average Canadian attitude with regard to the doubtful behaviour of its government, and it was, I am once again reminded, a truly inspired bit of observation. For how else could a country’s public—that is endlessly going on about itself in terms of its being the very apotheosis of human rights and freedoms—be so utterly unmoved to righteous indignation by Paul Martin’s stated reasons for the appointment of the new Governor General? “Hers is a story,” the man driveled, “that reminds us what is best about ourselves and about Canada—a nation where equality of opportunity is our most defining characteristic, giving testament to our longest-held values.” Which is to say (and, really, it requires no gloss from me): Michaëlle Jean’s story tells us how great we are. She reminds us how magnanimous we are to people like her.

And let’s be clear on exactly what her “story” is (…or, to be accurate, was). Her professional achievements are, of course, nothing that can be sneered at. But, really, they couldn’t possibly be as impressive as those of the persons actually suited to the position of Governor General. And so one realizes that her “story”—what qualified her for the job above and beyond everybody else—consists entirely in the fact that she was born in Haiti. That is: she spent the first eleven years of her life under the tyrannical rule of Papa Doc Duvalier. Then—we add as a footnote—she moved to Canada to receive the overwrought education we all seem to be getting these days, to go on to great achievements by Canada’s current standard of greatness: a career in television.

The PM couldn’t have been more mercenary if he had said that she got the job because she was a black woman and not a white man. Honestly, he may as well have said just that! (Hark! Strains of “To Be A Victim.”)

To be fair, though, it was this sort of latent racism that saw Adrienne Clarkson into the job. And she didn’t do too badly. Indeed, whatever the effect might have been of her little circumpolar escapade, the woman gave more dignity and vitality to the position than it’s had since General Vanier. Hope springs eternal for the mysterious Mme. Jean—who can only do the office justice by rising well-above the mentality that, in defiance of reason, good taste, and any other of mankind’s few redeeming virtues, bought it for her.

(And was it fancy, or did I really hear the sound of John Buchan turning in his grave when Paul Martin invoked the great Liberal quasi-truth: Canada’s “longest-held values”? The few that remain, sir, yes. Many of the dropped, though, were of greater value still.)