Have you ever heard the tales of the Wise Men of Chelm?
In the great tradition and history of Jewish humour, Chelm is a fictional town located somewhere in Eastern Europe that is said to be inhabited by fools. The tales centre around the "wise men", i.e the deep thinkers, who find and postulate ridiculous answers and solutions to the town's quandaries.
A few examples.
One morning, a young housewife of Chelm noticed that something strange had occurred in her kitchen. After she had buttered her toast, the woman accidentally dropped it on the floor and the bread landed buttered side up. Now, everybody knows that this defied the laws of physical nature. Everybody knows that when a piece of toast is dropped it always falls buttered side down. All the great thinkers of Chelm were called and asked to figure out what had happened. They studied, prayed and fasted for three days. When they finally emerged from seclusion, they had their answer. Of course! The young women had simply buttered the wrong side of the toast.
The town of Chelm had decided to build an new synagogue. They enlisted the help of some of the strongest and ablest young men in the area to go to the mountaintop and gather the largest and heaviest stones for the foundation. The young men put they stones on their shoulders and trudged down the mountain toward the new synagogue location. "Fools," cried the wise men. "You should have rolled the rocks down the hill." Faced with their own stupidity the young men did the only thing that they could. They put the heavy rocks back on their shoulders, trudged back up the mountainside, and proceeded to roll them back down the hill.
I have been regaled with Chelm stories since my earliest days at synagogue religious school. I just never could have imagined that one day I actually might reside in Chelm.
Because that is exactly what Toronto has become. Chelm.
The utter stupidity that has engulfed this city for much of the past three years has been staggering. It probably isn't necessary to rehash the obvious, but for expediency here goes. Toronto has a mayor who has finally dropped his translucent veneer of idiocy. He has been caught with his pants on fire and has been exposed as a duplicitous individual of questionable character with a probable substance abuse problem that has been exacerbated by his cavorting with gang bangers, drug dealers, and others who have been indicted on a myriad of offences. (It doesn't even serve me to provide links to all of his misdeeds. Just click on any news outlet site from anywhere in the world this morning and there is the whole sordid mess.) He has continually denied every accusation, publicly trashed the reputations of those who rightly called him on his shit, bullied his detractors with threats and innuendo, and sicked his attack dog of a brother on anybody who got close to his secret life of drug dens and "drunken stupours." He has lied repeatedly and broken the public trust to which he was elected.
His answer to all of this? "I am sincerely, sincerely, sincerely sorry."
No explanations for the illegal activity. No acknowledgment of his substance abuse. No elucidations of the very public meetings with drug dealers. No mea culpas for his racist and homophobic rants. No justification for the smear campaigns against some very reputable journalists and fellow politicians. No expounding on the almost four hundred pages of police documents that show hizzoner under surveillance for months. No elucidation of the now iconic photograph that displays the mayor of Toronto with his arms around three men in front of a reported crack house. (One of the men has since been murdered and another has been arrested on various drug offences.) Nothing, except blah blah blah....sorry sorry sorry....can't turn back the past....must move forward.
My kids did better with apologies at the age of 6.
And yet, there are those "wise men and women" of Toronto who are still behind the mayor. They've got his back.
"He's doing a great job," they say.
"Who care's what he does in his private life? Isn't he entitled to a private life?"
"Can't you see he's apologized? Enough already."
And then there's my personal favourite.
"Of course I'd vote for him again. He's just a regular guy trying to lowering my taxes."
The mayor of the fourth largest city in North America is entitled to a private life when his actions do not directly impact his job. We aren't talking about him taking his wife and kids to the movies, here. He signed up for this life and all its scrutiny. That is part of what being the chief magistrate of Toronto is all about. Being tanked and loaded while in full public view cannot and should never be a part of any mayor's private life. We will never know if he made important decisions for Toronto while bombed and in a "drunken stupour", but the possibility is there and as citizens we should all take tremendous offense at that. Cavorting with known criminals on a daily basis is a breach of his elected office. The city of Toronto is no longer simply grappling with an image problem (although I do believe there is an element to that thinking) but rather a business problem. If the CEO of any major corporation was caught screwing around on company time, he or she would be escorted from the building post haste.
And as for his apology? Well...he's been so very honest before, we should simply take him at his word. (That was sarcasm, Chelmites!)
This mayor has been an unmitigated public disaster and it is time for him to step aside and address his demons. But in typical Chelm fashion, there is no mechanism for his removal unless he himself chooses to walk away from the job. I have no doubt that he will stubbornly stay on and continue to spout his Chelmnian mantras until next October's election, but we here in the Big Smoke should be ashamed of our enabling his ongoing nonsense and particularly of our own stupidity.
So did you hear the latest in Canadian folklore? There are these great stories of the Wise Men and Women of Toronto.....