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Jian

Photo: Wikimedia/Penmachine (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Photo: Wikimedia/Penmachine (CC BY-SA 3.0)

I missed hearing it on the news. Mornings at our house—between cajoling kids out of bed and supervising piano practice and encouraging manners and/or self-service to be used when little people are issuing demands about what they want in their lunches and for breakfast – are loud. It was later in the morning, when I finally got around to checking in on facebook, that I got railroaded with the inconceivable news: Jian Ghomeshi fired from Q.

Friends who know me well know that I passionately love this CBC arts and culture radio show hosted by Jian, that he ranks second only to Leonard Cohen in the list of people I most admire, people who I don’t even want to meet because I would be too nervous to say anything coherent. So when I was looking at my wall, I clued in first that something terrible must have happened because of the messages of sympathy posted there. It took much longer for me to understand what that sympathy was for.

I spent the rest of the day processing my scattered thoughts. According to Jian, he has done nothing wrong, although he admits to liking bedroom play that others might find offensive. He’s been set up! It was the first thing I wanted to believe about the situation, and certainly lots of Jian’s supporters were on-line arguing this to be the case. Whether because of a bias against Jian’s liberal voice, budget cuts from on high, or just a Victorian prudishness at having one of the most popular faces of the CBC smeared with sex scandal, there seemed to be ample reason for believing that Jian had been let go unjustly.

I will no longer listen to the CBC! I resolved in response. Where I could possibly turn instead for thoughtful commercial-free radio representing a variety of voices, concerns, perspectives and cultural contributions, I had no idea. The thought of not starting my day with public broadcasting left me feeling lost. And more than for myself, I worried about what would be lost to Canada if others decided to take this course as well, if we collectively conceded that our source of trust-worthy, thought-provoking news journalism was gone.

Later news articles and links flipped my opinion again. What appeared to be total innocence from Jian’s perspective was now sounding anything but. Anonymous, but corroborated, reports of sexually abusive behaviour toward at least several women left me feeling more sympathetic toward the CBC . The CBC is going to suffer very much for having let Jian go. Maybe they did so as a brave and just choice. Maybe they are trustworthy and have done the right thing on behalf of all too-many people out there who have felt exploited or violated because of sexual abuse or assault.

Then there are the women. For whatever reason—probably because of how complicated it is to either stand up for claims that haven’t been brought into the full light of day or to dismiss them as inconsequential when, in fact, we are more aware than ever of just how hard it can be to admit to being a victim of unwanted sexual or abusive behaviour even in circumstances far outside the radar of national celebrity—it took me longer to consider them. I watched facebook ignite with heartfelt judgements. We have a process. We have law. Accusations need to be brought to bear in a court of law, not lobbied against an individual’s reputation in the realm of public opinion and so-called gossip. Who among us doesn’t know good and faithful men whose reputations have been attacked by feminist anger gone awry? And yet, who among us can’t also point to stories of women and men who have risked everything and lost much trying to honour the process and bring an abuser to justice? Four women, all unnamed. Even Jian’s supposed friends weighing in on-line to name him as a man who hits women. Sexual deviance is one thing. Assault is another. My responsibility is surely to uphold the voices of those who feel they can’t raise those voices, to speak into the fray the experiences that have been shared so often with me: of strong women silenced within a system that doesn’t quite yet work.

These later conclusions also left me feeling unsettled. Because of course I don’t know. I don’t actually know any of the people involved, nor the final validity of their claims. I don’t know what it felt like in the upper echelons of CBC to let their most popular radio personality go, a man who has changed the face of what is possible for publically-funded radio. I don’t know, but if I am honest and resist snap judgements, I would guess that those higher-ups are far less interesting than the evil non-persons I wanted at first to assume that they were and probably much closer to human beings like me who would struggle to make the right decisions when every step forward points to damage and scandal and loss.

I don’t know the stories of these anonymous women or what has led them to choose to share, or not share, their stories. I do know that they represent circumstances that are far from ideal because of course a court of law is the better place to air grievances of this sort, and of course we should live in a world where men and women can speak openly and pursue justice by means that allow for disclosure rather than furthering secrecy, scandal and the fuelling of that anger that becomes most intense in the face of all that we can’t control.

I don’t know if Jian is a victim or victimizer. And I don’t know, in the event that he’s in the wrong, what might have led him to make the choices that he may have made. I know that too much affirmation can be a toxic thing, that even the most well-positioned, respected, acclaimed and admired can feel impossibly small, that the ego’s appetite can become hungrier in the face of even vast quantities of adulation. I know that good people can get lost.

Last week’s Gospel centered on The Golden Rule, as stated by Jesus “Love the Lord your God with all your heart. And love your neighbour as yourself.” This past Sunday’s sermons, in all of our churches, no doubt invited us to wonder at how these words might apply in the face of the tragic events in the killing of two Canadian soldiers and the mid-week attack on Parliament Hill. Many of my conversations with friends and parishioners circled around questions of compassion: what must we understand about the causes that could lead to such horrific actions? About the power and appeal the violence and hatred of ISIS is having on young Canadians? What responsibility do we bear to our young people in our country? How can we avoid hateful stereotypes as a result of these actions? How can we nurture relationships that lead to understanding and justice, and therefore, peace?

Part of loving my neighbour as myself is about trying to understand my neighbour. But the other part of loving my neighbour is in admitting that I, in fact, understand precious little. Sometimes love’s capacity for the selflessness and the generosity of the Gospel grows when I can let go of needing to have the answers, when I can avoid drawing conclusions that are not within my authority to draw, when I can let my own need for certainty go just enough to live in the tension of conferring a basic level of respect and dignity on more than one voice, even as those voices lobby accusations against one another.

And the other part of loving my neighbour has something to do with me, with my choices and my responsibility. In Jesus’ teaching, God’s kingdom is here, and it starts with you. It starts with me. Jian’s firing might mean less than nothing to some of you reading my blog. And some of you will feel like I do. Like something terrible has happened to a dear friend. More than that, like something almost as vitally important has been lost to Canada with his departure as was lost in the murder of Corporal Nathan Cirillo. In the face of that hurt and that groundlessness, there are some things that I can’t choose and there are some things that I can. There are things I can’t know and things I can. The Gospel choice is to start with the “I know”s and the “I can”s.

I know there is a talented and famous man who has had his world crumble around him. I know that this man is deserving of prayer. I know that there are women who are probably equally talented who, as yet, have no name, who have also lost something of great value. And these women are in need of prayer too.

I can, in my own life and relationships, far outside the sphere of national headlines, be part of how communities are created where people commit to the struggle inherent in the growing of compassion, where stories can be shared in ways that build trust and honesty. I can foster opportunities for truth-telling and care of the vulnerable in the places I live and work.

And I can do something else, something small, something that interestingly brought me back to where I had begun. I turned CBC back on today. I had turned it off as a loyal fan and as an easy first reaction of anger against what can be mistaken as a faceless institution. Just as I remind disgruntled church members that their baptism precludes them from leaving the church because the church is them and it is us, so I have to acknowledge that our public broadcaster is me and it is us. Our country still needs to be built. And our national conversation—and therefore our public broadcaster—needs our participating voices and not our turned backs.

About Martha Tatarnic

The Reverend Martha Tatarnic serves as the rector of St. George’s Anglican Church in St. Catharines. Previously, she has served in congregations in Orillia and Oakville. Her focus in congregational leadership has been in empowering justice initiatives and outreach in the small church, starting a new service, the possibilities and potentials of Anglican-Lutheran partnership, and forming disciples through the power of music. As a young mother navigating family life through the continually changing waters of modern-day life, she is passionate about connecting the dots between faith – worship - Scripture, and exploring the concerns, joys, questions, stresses, worries, celebrations, of Right Here, Right Now.
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21 Responses to Jian

  1. We’re taught to reach out and love and forgive

  2. Yes, that’s how I felt about Rob Ford, but it seemed he was found guilty prior to any proof. And how the media stalked his house and his mother’s house. Funny how people’s opinions change depending on who is involved.

    • Please don’t confuse this with Rob Ford. Rob Ford was justifiably found guilty in the court of informed public opinion, as opposed to his too-trusting followers. Because of his refusal as a public official to respond to allegations, the news media justifiably tried to get comments at his home, and the family home. It was a big story. As far as Jian goes, the Star was, as with Ford, careful to hold off with its story until there was some action taken by Ghomeshi–his facebook post after the CBC fired him. Ghomeshi called the women liars. And at that moment my impulse to give him the benefit of the doubt ended. Since then further allegations seem to confirm a pattern of abuse which clearly illustrates why CBC’s action was necessary.

  3. I don’t disagree with you Karen. I was trying to work through the various thoughts and opinions I have heard expressed, as well as my own shock and disappointment and uncertainty here.

  4. Indeed. But if he is guilty of what he’s accused then we also have to talk about how he must overcome the self deception that justifies these actions. In old fashioned terms, he needs to repent. And that must be done before his victims. (Sorry to be so wordy!)

  5. This article’s sentiment is overall very encouraging but there are numerous moments of very offensive and demeaning language — likely not on purpose! The author, as we all are, live in a culture permeated by rape.

    Example: “Who among us doesn’t know good and faithful men whose reputations have been attacked by feminist anger gone awry?” “Fake” reports of rape are incredibly low, so this is highly unlikely. As well, using feminist in this way is extremely hurtful to me.

  6. We cannot forgive until we know for certain what it is we’re being asked to forgive. Yes Jesus told us to love and pray for our enemies and those who persecute us but I fear sometimes that we as a Church rush to show grace and love to the (possible) perpetrator before we fully concern ourselves with the (alleged) victims because it shows off our “Christianity” better.

  7. Thank you for this articulate, compassionate and faithful response. Well done.

  8. hope for the sinned-against needs to be prioritized in the church. Yes, God is gracious, slow to anger and forgives. But we move too quickly to preaching this and in doing so, miss the mark in supporting those who have been sinned-against. This is a piece of writing that fleshes this out a little more: https://thestrengthoftheabsurd.wordpress.com/hope-for-the-sinned-against/

  9. Peter Misiaszek

    I don’t really wish to slag Jian – the court of public opinion is already beginning to render a verdict. What concerns me most in this situation is how he apparently used his position and power to manipulate, harass and exploit.

    As a father of two daughters I believe I have a heightened consciousness about how society objectifies women and how many men seem to be ever on the prowl (not all, but many). I am quick to guard my girls against such behaviour as am I equally quick to point out to my son what is appropriate for boys/men and how girls/women should be treated with respect and as equals.

    Even at their tender ages of 8, 11 and 13, my wife and I have been very open with them about what it means to be safe, confident and cautious.

    Jian’s predatorial (even deviant) approach to relationships comes as a surprise and it confuses me. I always viewed him as an enlightened, reasoned, socially progressive individual who could be admired and celebrated. Seemingly, however, under that venere hides a more sinister side. I guess he wasn’t paying too much attention on the day that CBC was holding it’s mandatory harassment training.

  10. I don’t think Jian goes to church. First world problem not worthy of discussion.

  11. It seems to me that there is a bigger question to be asked….Who cares? There are a lot more things happening in this world to get vexed about then some self important persons foibles. Let’s get vexed about the state of the church of Jesus Christ in this world,feeding the hungry ,clothing the naked ,etc. We are too preoccupied with the rise and fall of people in the entertainment field .Does this person need prayer and help,yes but more important that person needs Jesus and His saving grace in his life.

    • David Burrows

      Tony, I believe that all those who have been affected by violence against women, especially sexual violence care about the repercussions of this public discussion concerning one whom many have revered. It is incumbent upon us as the people of God, as Christ’s body in this place to offer care and refuge to all that have been affected by violence. This situation demands our presence as the body of Christ because these women are deeply loved by God; they have been deeply hurt by men, perhaps this man, and we need to come alongside them because too many have been ignored or ostracized because of their reporting of sexual violence.

      • I agree with you about the violence done to women by men but you missed my point ,why is society so enamored by all the bad behavior of TV and Movie celebrities who think that they can live any way they please because of who they are ,Justin Bierber for example.As far as I am concerned celebrities should be held to a higher standard with higher penalties not getting off with a slap on the wrist because society tends to worship them and until we get over this obsession with them ,they will carry on behaving badly.

        • If I hear David correctly, Tony, his answer to your original question is this: we care. It is the Church’s responsibility to reach out to those who are suffering, whether celebrity staus is part of the story or not. And that (as clarified in Martha’s second blog on the topic), is, in fact, the reason this conversation needs to take place. I, for one, choose to identify myself as one how cares.

  12. Articulate exploration of the many reactions I have experienced as this has unfolded! While I have some understanding of the fear that lies behind the unwillingness of victims to report abuse to the police, I have been appalled at the national appetite for asserting Jian Gomeshi’s guilt in the media including the salacious repetition of anonymous accusations. I am relieved that three women have finally gone to the police; perhaps we can allow the judicial system to do its job on our behalf. I am not in any way asserting that Gomeshi is innocent nor am I doubting the stories of the women. I am defending our human right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. To presume anyone’s guilt diminishes the protection we all enjoy. trial by media”

  13. Didn’t finish – trial by media diminishes our sense of community and civility. I look forward to the conclusion of the police investigation and hope that the vitriol about the victims by some and about Jian by others will die down as we await the conclusion of the investigation.

  14. Our churches, and we as members of our churches, bear a great responsibility in making this a world where victims can feel safe and supported in coming forward. I apologize for the sentence in this blog which says that we all have men in our lives who have been on the receiving end of misdirected feminist anger. I wanted to name some of the comments that I have heard from good and faithful men in my life – not of being accused falsely of sexual misconduct, but of feeling that the worst is assumed of them because they are men. I understand that, in the context of my blog, it sounded as if I was suggesting that men are regularly falsely accused of sexual misconduct, when in fact I know this absolutely to not be the case. I am sincerely sorry that I did not catch the implications of this sentence before sending it to be posted.

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