Am I going nuts? The evening of June 19th, the day the Omnibus Bill finally got rammed through the House of Commons and was, presumably. on it‛s way to the Senate, the TV newscasters and pundits were obsessed by the fact that a federal cabinet minister had called a senior provincial official an “a**-hole”. They never voiced that term of endearment but they did put it in print — in the same manner that I have just done, complete with asterisks.
Now I really don‛t know how to pronounce a single asterisk, let alone two. Nor can I imagine what letters they are supposed to represent other than “ss”. So in an era when most scatological and anatomical words and phrases are used in movies, plays, talk shows and on the street what is so terrible about the word “ass”?
What I really wanted to know at the time was not whether somebody had been called a rectal orifice but whether there is any possibility that Bill C-38 might actually have a few intelligent and genuine big C senators like, say, Hugh Segal, or Nancy Ruth, vote against the damned thing. That would make for more interesting debate than whether some twit had tweeted the word “ass”.
Even when I was a kid we all knew that Jesus had one. The Bible told us that he even rode into the city on it which, as some wag has pointed out, is more than the average commuter can do in rush hour on the TTC.
Why, I ask myself, were the TV newsies eating up airtime by discussing the impropriety of a word if that word was both unspeakable and unprintable – no mean accomplishment, when you stop to think about it.
For me, the real problem with the epithet was not its impropriety but the sheer banality of it. Oh for the days when some MPs were orators and name calling was an art.
I delved into my files to find a particular John Crosbie quote from back in the days when that gentleman was a minister in the Mulroney PC cabinet and the Free Trade debate was underway. I couldn‛t find the exact quote but I do remember that he excoriated left wingers as “dinosaurs, CBC types, literati and encyclopaedia salesmen.” I put it in quotes here because I believe if it is incorrect the error is only in the order. A little outburst like that sticks in the mind because of the paradoxical way in which the speaker was smart enough to make a colourful selection of words while expressing an anti-intellectual position.
What my files did turn up was a quote extracted from a 1988 letter in the Globe & Mail (exact date lost, alas) written by a maritimer called Michael who apparently did not like either the Free Trade agreement or those who were pushing it. Michael was not pleased by the “minnows, choughs, bunghole-corks, ideologues and kettle-menders who make up our federal cabinet”. He went on to say that “The trade deal stinks like herring-guts in July, and it would take more than the slub-gubberly demagoguery of some gurry-tongued jackdaw from St.John’s to make Canadians think otherwise.”
Makes an “ass-hole” tweet seem, creatively, almost brain dead. And ditto for those who wasted airtime debating it while avoiding it.
Even makes one yearn for John Crosbie. And where, I ask, is Michael when we need him?
And by the way, will the PC senators swallow that entire C-38 abomination without throwing up?