Tuesday, May 22, 2012



On a recent edition of TVO's "The Agenda with Steve Paikin", the topic of discussion was the rebranding of Canada. The assertion was that the traditional image of Canada, the way we used to think of ourselves, the way we wanted the world to think of us, has changed over the last 20 years or so. The old tradition, that of a bilingual, multicultural, peace-keeping left-leaning nation was giving way to a more robust image: that of the loud and boisterous swagger of the 2010 Olympics, with flags waving, bragging about "owning the podium", and a macho warrior mentality seen in the actions of the troops in Afghanistan. We are no longer the "Scandinavians of North America": now, we approach the world as beligerents, ready to fight before we negotiate, ready to take on all comers and to hell with those who don't like us.

The discussion smacked of too much hyperbole and a whole lot of silly stereotyping, but the consensus of the panel was that there was some truth to the change. The change was reflected too, they said, in the swing in political preference. Gone are the days of Trudeaumania, replaced by the new realities of Stephen Harper's regime. When that type of discussion made the rounds of the panel, I began to realize that there was indeed a shift, and it could be summed up in one remarkable phrase. Canada was turning into a nation of Don Cherrys.

I reacted with horror at this. Don Cherry, as I have posted before, is perhaps the most inarticulate, narrow-minded, egotistical, error-ridden commentator on television. His survival is a testament to the ability of the human race to exist in spite of all odds and thrive when there should be no chance of hanging on. The fact that he has a weekly spot on CBC ( that most "pinko" of networks ) shows just how incredible his survival really is, and how ridiculous he makes us all look. How could he become the face and vision of the land that we all love?

And then, it hit me. Cherry might just be the perfect symbol of Canada. Not the new, meaner, swagger-filled Canada, but the older, more traditional Canada. For you see, gentle reader,  Don Cherry might just be the man that stands for one of the most cherished of Canadian attitudes: inclusiveness. Why? Because Don Cherry just might be gay. In fact, he may be the gayest man in Canada.

I have always believed in the necessity of Canada being inclusive. Unless you are First Nations, we have all come from somewhere else: and, in the case of First Nations, it could even be argued that they arrived in North America across a land bridge from Asia during the last Ice Age. So, it follows that, if we are a nation of new-comers, we must embrace the notion that we all bring different things to the nation. That includes things like language, religion, traditions, skills, culture, ethnicity, and, yes, sexual orientation. And that's where Don Cherry comes in. Need proof?

Item:  Don Cherry famously kissed Doug Gilmour not once, but at least three times on national television. The pictures seem to indicate a fondness for the touch of the masculine lips. One wonders how much tongue was involved.

Item: Don Cherry shops at Fabricland. Not for drapes or furnishings, but for the material for his flamboyant suits. He loves the image of pipe bands, and the wearing of kilts. When he described a band he was part of, he said they all looked "gorgeous".

Item: Don Cherry has made a career out of extolling the virtues of the team mentality. He has stated on several occasions how important it is to be "with the guys", eating, sleeping, showering together after games and on road trips. He was absent from home, wife and children often as he toiled in the AHL for more than a dozen seasons. He prefers the company of men.

Item: Don Cherry tears up and becomes excessively emotional whenever extolling the virtues of our troops or peace officers. He is a man who cries easily. Macho? Hell, show him a picture of the Queen and watch him dissolve. No wonder he carries fancy hankies in his jacket pocket.

Like many members of the LGBT community, Don Cherry has had to live in another world to avoid his "coming out". So, he has created the persona of himself as a bombastic, tough-talking, roughneck ready to drink and fight and dare anyone to disagree. But I see through him. I believe that, deep down, he is sensitive, sentimental, colourful, flamboyant, and firmly in touch with his feminine side.

He is, therefore, a perfect image and symbol of Canada. Here's to you Don, you sweetheart, you !!
Of course, gentle reader, I could be wrong about all of this. In fact, I am quite sure that Don Cherry is not gay. But if he is,so what? Whether Don is gay or not is not important. Being LGBT should no longer matter in our world. What is important is what he represents, and how real it all is. In my view, the whole Don Cherry, Canada-as-a-new-swaggering-tough-guy-type-of-nation, isn't very real at all. Back to the drawing board, I guess. What a country, eh ?