Wednesday, March 10, 2004

If I Had A Club...

Think of me as a female Will Rogers (but cute... and less cornpone - if I were corn, I'd be Peaches and Cream. And if I were a tree I'd be...) it was Rogers who said:"All I know is what I read in the newspapers" - but what I read in today's newspaper made me wonder if somebody hadn't pulled an elaborate switcheroo, and instead of the March 10, 2004 edition I felt sleepily safe in expecting, slapped a copy of The Toronto Star circa 1945 on my front doorstep early this a.m..
On the front page of section 2 (or B, or GTA or whatever...) as large as life and twice as 'Too Good For the Likes of You' - a shot of the venerable front gates of that bastion of patrician Toronto society: The Rosedale Golf Club. Below the image capturing the elegant gatepost and long sweeping driveway, unravels the story of former general manager Michael Geluch, who as I write is warming a seat at his specially reserved table, smack dab at the front of the courtroom, where day three of his wrongful dismissal trial is underway.
Geluch's civil suit would be unlikely to raise interest, much less eyebrows or boldface if it weren't for the fact that at the core of his defence is his contention that the club (hereinafter referred to as 'the club') divested themselves of his services not, as they allege, because he was over-familiar with female staff or light-fingered with the club's food and wine, but rather because he fought what he saw as the potential blackballing of membership applicant George Cohon when the McDonald's Canada President applied in 1996, and again successfully, in 1997.
Mr Cohon, he alleges the club alleged - is Jewish.
A Jew so powerful, he could possibly " the floodgates to allowing more Jewish members." (A segment of society that has, coincidentally, not enjoyed access since the club's inception in 1897.) The fear that this possibility clearly struck into the hearts of the club's membership committee was apparantly a vision almost too horrendous to imagine. (It's interesting that they also noted that Mr Cohon was "...loud, aggressive, and not a very good golfer.")
I personally don't know the truth of this matter - whether Geluch, employed by the club for 12 years, pinched food and secretaries with equal abandon (though for such a crappy employee, the club was generous enough to provide him with an $8000 bonus in addition to his $137,000 annual salary only the year before Mr Cohon had the unmitigated gall to apply for membership) whether he lied about the membership committee's satement about Cohon's potential Moses-like, thin-edge-of-the-wedge abilities to bring in carloads of putter-armed Jews, or even if Mr Cohon is a lousy golfer, with a shrill voice, and the manners of a pushy buffet line cutter-inner.
All of these things remain a mystery to me.
But apparently the report of a no-Jews policy at Rosedale is accurate. Here in Toronto in 2004, there is an institution that unashamedly (if not completely transparently) discriminates against Jews. A club wherein behind its gilded gates, runs an undercurrent that supports the worst, ugliest, most ignorant form of racism that (I pray) we've all been praying for to end to since it was quite openly practiced for much of the last century.
Canada has a lot of dirty little secrets - some not so secret - and our record for accepting Jewish refugees both during and following the second World War is a record steeped in shame. When I came to Toronto 12 years ago, I was told there was a core of anti-semites in some of the swankiest homes and businesses in the city. I didn't believe it. No society is immune to stupidity and ignorance, but surely, I thought, no educated, modern, unbelievably lucky society of individuals would support openly - or even covertly - racism against its fellow citizens. It just didn't make logical sense.
But since then I have heard and seen just that. From the educated - lawyers, doctors, professionals of all stripes - the crudest sort of Jews are cheap, Jews are different, Jews aren't like you and I.... comments. Comments that I found even more offensive because they came from people who not only didn't check to see if I might be offended, but shared their insights in a manner that suggested we all knew this, we all thought this... we were all in this together. I made it clear then I hope - but just in case I didn't:
Fuck off you fucking fucked up fuckers (a beautifully evocative phrase I've stolen whole from a dear friend) you're on your own. Please feel free to stay that way.
At the end of the day (clearly telegraphing the end of this rant, eh?) clubs like The Rosedale Golf Club, and the people who join them, are - or should be identified as - anachronistic, misguided figures of pity (and maybe the recipients of a rotten tomato or two...) devoid of imagination, empathy and understanding.
The policy the members of this fancy schmancy golf club tolerate just isn't cricket.

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