Wednesday, September 28, 2005

How do I love thee, Excellency? Let me dribble the ways!

What the hell is wrong with Andrew Coyne?! He’s been labouring so hard against type lately that he’s gone and fondled the new Governor General in today’s Post, the drooling pervert!

He begins his piece: “Madam, I surrender. Let us forget past criticisms. Let us put aside old quarrels. Your speech has collapsed my defences. You are my Commander-in-Chief.” Which, of course, I took to be his usual and very welcome tongue-in-cheekery (given the unmistakable triteness of yesterday’s speech), in preface to a nice bit of slagging of the newly minted Governor General. But, it turns out, these were the unironic throat-clearings of a veritable paean to the new viceregal and her installation banalities! He goes so far as to say that Mme. Jean’s speech was “note-perfect in tone, and transformative in content.” … I mean!

I reassure myself that Mr. Coyne has, likely, just fallen victim to a phenomenon that is forgivably common to us all: he got his expectations so cynically low in anticipation of the new Governor General’s speech[1] that even the dungloaf presented him in the end was a mild, and even delicately scented thing by comparison ... I often err similarly in the matter of movies—such that, to give an example, I still believe Anchorman to have been something verging on comic genius. (As a rule, you see, I have always had a low opinion of Will Ferrell.)

To be sure, though, it really was a dungloaf of a speech. Indeed, paragraphs 1, 3, 8 and 17 are so bizarrely solipsistic and self-promoting that one wonders if Mme. Jean was quite aware of the fact that she already was the Governor General, and that this wasn’t the required speech segment of the qualifying round … And the reference to “our young people … helping to redefine the great family we all belong to” was a rather too telling declaration of political alignment for a Governor General to be making, and was, I can’t help thinking, a very short step from some sort of equally thin-veiled remark about ‘a woman’s right to choose.’

Thank God for Barbara Kay, who not only saw through Michaëlle Jean’s little speech, but hit the nail very squarely upon the head in her identification of what makes the new GG fall detrimentally short of the viceregal mark.

(And, to get back to Coyne, I think he’s too spiteful in re. old Gilles Duceppe. Between the two of them, I think they’ve supplied some very fine, and very constructive criticisms of the country they’ve both come so much to loathe ... How sharper than a serpent's tooth, eh Gilles?)

[1] After all, he even tells us that he “expect[ed] to hear the usual banal bureaucratese, or worse, the coded appeals to regional and racial chauvinism … that have become the official language of Ottawa.”