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Thursday 23 May 2024

F for Sex Scandals
David Simmonds

You will have to forgive the readers of the Wellington Times if they are a little blasé about the Bob Dechert, flirtatious--but-innocent emails affair

Why?, well, those who read the missives exchanged between Jake Hooker and Elsie Pivot know they're getting material one heck of a lot steamier than the e-mails sent to a female employee of the Chinese news agency by Dechert, and that landed him deep water with opposition MPs and commentators earlier this month. By comparison, Mr. Dechert’s correspondence barely drags itself across the eroticism threshold

Dechert sent Rong-Shi a note that said, “You are so beautiful. I really like the picture of you by the water with your cheeks puffed. That look is so cute. I love it when you do that. Now, I miss you even more Signed, Bob Dechert MP" Mr. Dechert, who is entitled to the benefit of the doubt, maintains that the friendship was innocent

That wasn't how Ms. Rong-Shi's husband saw it. He hacked into and distributed e-mails from her account, accusing her of conducting a love affair. For her troubles, China hauled Ms. Rong-Shi back home for reassignment, and Mrs. Dechert isn't talking. An informal CBC poll lists responses running about 2-1 in favour of him resigning

How do you really expect a person who has to sit around all week, as Stephen Harper tells you to find some amusement? Do you seriously expect him to just go and play Sudoku on his computer? Do you expect him to sit around pulling the wings off flies? If he had doodled disrespectful cartoons of the boss during some caucus meeting, the morality police might have stayed home, but his head would have been on a platter the next morning. Flirtation is an obvious outlet

Yet, compare Mr. Dechert's output to what Jake and Elsie have been doing. In the 14 September issue, for example, Elsie writes, "Oh Jake, of course you have a past! I wouldn't expect that such a manly man would live like a monk just waiting for Destiny to explode our solitary lives like fireworks on Victoria Day … And besides, how could you be such a wise sage of life, a mount of wisdom, if you haven't tasted the dregs of experience? Oh no, my Chic of Araby, I trust you with my love….'' To which Jake replies, “O Elsie! You are the guiding’ star in my expandin’ firmament, yet my unworthy mind harbours such roilin’, overheated trash.… Is there any chance at all we can regain those funky thrills and insights. Or has my overweanin’ ardour blown my cover?

You might think things would be the other way round. The small town is shocked at innocent intimacies, the body politic yawns at anything less than a smoking gun. Instead, the small town yawns at steamy letters and the public incensed at the impropriety of mildly titillating emails. In fact, if anyone is shocked over Dechert-grade material, then the publisher of the Wellington Times might as well clothe himself in the robes of a crusading figure for freedom of expression, carrying the torch borne by the publishers of Fanny Hill, Tropic of Cancer and Lady Chatterley's Lover.

The deeper trouble for Mr. Dechert is that his misjudgment means he might just have taken himself out of the running for promotion into the cabinet, however innocent the affair. For that, a certain proportion of Canadian male-dom will want to cheer him on but instead will excoriate him for not making a better showing on behalf of all Neanderthal alpha males while he had the chance. If you fail a morality test and forfeit your career, they would think, I'm not sure that's the right verb, choose a stunning biker chick with deep décolletage. Then leave a raft of cabinet documents over at her place, a la Maxime Bernier or a woman host at the Chez Paree nightclub, who might be a spy from East Germany, a la Pierre Sevigny. Don't wimp out and settle for tepid e-mails. Aren't there any real men in Harperland? If only another 50-something year old would just surrender to his inner hormones and take one for the team, Stephen Harper might win a second majority built on the backs of red-blooded males. I'm not making any representations about the intelligence of the male of the species here.

The fact is that we don't seem to do sex scandals very well in Ontario. A few years ago, a member of Bob Rae’s cabinet resigned after being overheard offering a bartender a government job in exchange for, well, you know. The bargain never consummated and the former minister never charged. Jack Layton attained sainthood despite or maybe because found in a massage parlour. The Dechert scandal is even punier. What we deserve is a full-blown, American sized scandal, as ethics king Elliot Spitzer’s brazen use of a high priced prostitution service, when Governor of New York.

For my part, I say leave Bob Dechert alone. His flirtatious-but-innocent missives don’t even match the standard of eroticism set by the Wellington Times. By the way, I know of several members of the Wellington Open Floor who would be happy to help him, for a fee, bring his emails up to that standard.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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