I woke up very early this morning with a Ghomeshi on my mind. But not Jian Gomeshi, rather his father who passed away just a few weeks ago. And I couldn’t get out of mind how lucky he was to not live long enough to see the evisceration of his son’s reputation, the tarnishing of his family name. I don’t think of Jian as a victim here. Far from it. But it did make think long and hard about the power of really strong communicators to get into people’s heads with what can sometime lead to devastating consequences. I experience his talent first hand when I guested on Q. And I experienced the deep and abiding love of a father just as he did. I’m not a perfect person. Nobody is. And I’ve made my share of mistakes. But I always asked myself the question, “Am I about to do something that would bring shame to my father’s name? With these thoughts swirling through my brain, I chose to write an essay and deliver it on my radio show. It’s received a massive amount of reaction. This is the abridged text from “A few thoughts about Jian Ghomeshi”. The full audio version is posted below.
Before I say what I say, I will say that I am not here to prosecute Jian Ghomeshi, the allegations, the stories, have not been proved in court.
But there are some things I need to get off my chest about Jian Ghomeshi, not because we were friends, I knew him for twenty minutes on a stage at the Burton Cummings Theatre. It was a packed house and I was on a panel during a week in which the Junos were in Winnipeg. I was not a Q listener or Q fan. The CBC producers clearly picked me for the panel because I am on the right and there were two people with me on stage who were to the left of me. One was a teacher and the other a journalist. Jian threw me a lot of the questions that night because as a radio moderator you tend to take the questions to the person most highly motivated to offer you stories and tell those stories with vivid language.
I am the son of Mike and Rose Adler. They are the most fiercely proud Canadians you would ever meet, but when it comes to story telling they are wired Hungarian. The stories aren’t polluted by factual minutiae, they are embroidered with animated visuals, sometimes even absurdly animated, the kind that make the story compelling and make the storyteller the kind you can listen to over and over again. I was convinced growing up that many of the customers who came to our shop weren’t coming for the service we were offering dry cleaning and tailoring. Many came because they wanted to hear Rose and Mike talk about anything and everything from their perspective. The shop was called Adler’s Tailor Shop. It was where I was taught 99.9 percent of what I know about human beings, because we had so many come through, and so many came through with their life stories. I don’t mean to offend any of my friends who are Catholic clergy, but I honestly think my father the tailor heard more confessions in his little shop than Father O’Brien did at St. Malachy’s Church just a few minutes down the road. I often went there to deliver dry cleaning to one of our favourite customers.
Why do I tell you all this and what does it have to do with Jian Ghomeshi? I tell you because while I don’t know Jian personally, and I only knew him as a fellow pro for twenty minutes, I know enough about that night to know that he knows how to connect with people. He connected with that audience that night, he was masterful, and although I am quite certain many of them might not have been fans of mine because of my politics or my attitude or my tone, I know that on that night his audience was extremely generous with me and that could not have happened unless they saw strong chemistry between Ghomeshi and me. When I drove home after the show, I thought to myself ‘this dude knows how to do an interview, knows how to get into your head, knows how to make you like him and feel after a very few minutes that you’ve known him for a very long time’. I’ve heard the same things said about me and I know where I got it from, my parents.
A few weeks ago I read a piece that Jian Ghomeshi wrote about losing his father. I was so glad he wrote it. So glad it was published and I so strongly identified with so much of it. I have been losing my father for a number of years to Alzheimer’s, as you know. That piece he wrote just after his father died was written less than three weeks ago. And so when he announced last week that he was stepping away from the microphone, I assumed that he was still so shaken by the death of his father that he was being given time off by CBC to cope. And I thought two things: what a good son, and what a good company to give him time to deal with his feelings. I thought to myself, ‘my broadcast brother is wounded, but he’ll come back in a few weeks stronger than ever’.
You know what they say about assumptions. They make an ass out of you. When the stuff hit the fan over the weekend and the CBC threw him down the stairs and he posted his confessions about his personal life on Facebook and I read them, my assumptions were making an ass out of me and my anger was getting the best of me. When I read that he was suing for 50 million and then for 55 million, I felt that this had to be one of biggest PR snow jobs in history. I felt that whatever sympathy he had was based on his reputation, which was well earned, hell, he earned mine in twenty minutes. But I am not in my twenties and I’m not a female, and I am not at risk of being charmed out of my underwear by the charming, story-telling, intellectually seductive, radio host.
I’m going to leave it there for now except for this on behalf of my father who has honored my mother for 64 years – even though he can no longer speak to her verbally, he holds her hand warmly and lovingly and she tells me, romantically. As the son of a man who taught me the meaning of respect for all human beings, all of them, even the ones who may disagree with you on everything; as the son of a man who lost his mother to a Nazi oven and felt guilty all his adult life for being alive when his mother could not be; as the son of the most honest man I ever knew, Mike Alder, I can tell you that when I read what Jian Ghomeshi allegedly did, (yes, Rule of Law, Rule of Law, Rule of Law), and as I read more and more, about more and more women, and more and more dates from hell, I feel guilty for being happy for Jian Ghomeshi’s father. Happy for him that he died just weeks before he would have felt things I never want any father to ever feel about his little boy.
I have done many things in my life that I hope have made my father proud. I know I did some things that made him cross. I did some things that made him mad. But I know in my heart that I have lived my life trying to avoid doing anything that would make him feel ashamed, that would bring shame on the family name. I owe that to him and to his mother, who never got to see any of her grandchildren because she was deported and abused and murdered.
On behalf of my dad who had received so much loyalty from his many female customers because they knew they could trust him, and they were right, I just want to say to any woman listening to the sound of my voice, I am as sorry as I can be for any pain inflicted by a man who charmed you and harmed you and made you feel that talking back or fighting back was impossible because you would not be believed or respected.
I cannot apologize for Jian Ghomeshi. I have no moral right to do that. He will have to deal with his own burdens, his own debts and his own conscience. Thank you for listening to mine.
I'm Charles Adler.