Revised May 13, 2016.
Rob Ford. Rob Ford is on my mind. God and all the friggin’ archangels help me. That’s at least two brain cells gone forever.
As erstwhile Mayor of Toronto, Ford exhibited the frustration, temper and childish resentment of someone who had been placed in a position whose responsibilities he knew he wasn’t capable of meeting. As a private citizen, a tormented and guilt-ridden “secret” addict, he had the defensive demeanour and uncontained ferocity of a cornered animal.
If only that ferocious energy could have been harnessed for good; that is to say, not just good for Rob Ford and his ego, but truly good for Toronto and all of its citizens.
As his intellectual and political mortal enemy, I hated his utter lack of vision for this city, a predictable, dispiriting focus on “stopping the gravy train” (though consultants KPMG, hired to identify the “gravy”, found none), and lowering taxes (because taxes, in the black-and-white world of the Tea Party and their spiritual ilk, are always wrong, taxes are “big government”‘s flame-thrower in the war against property owners, the war against the car; though no one asks how, for example, roads would be planned and paved and maintained, or who would be paying for them. Apparently not the car owners, or the manufacturers of the vehicles).
It was, true to the conservative ideology, a mayor-dom of negatives, a great big world full of “no”; if you can’t cut it, close it, stop it or jail it, it’s not in the conservative toolkit. Their social-Darwinist predisposition is to build nothing, but simply dismantle what’s there with no intent beyond the David-versus-Goliath optics and a supreme ignorance of historical context.
Ironically in Ford’s case, his hatred of big government was coupled with an egomania so pathological and a sense of entitlement so dictatorial that he failed to comprehend that his mandate was not to rule by fiat but to achieve consensus via City Council.
This is how you wake up one day and discover that your mayor and his brother – that phrase in itself speaks scary volumes – are advocating for a casino and a Ferris wheel on the most historic section of Front Street East. Ideology or crack cocaine? Only a conservative would know for sure…
I was mad, Christina, so very mad at the dirt of Ford’s misogyny and his homophobia and his sheer willful plodding idiocy and his “just plain folks” demagoguery that painted all government as inherently bad, all spending as inherently gratuitous, all culture as an unnecessary frill.
I hated that he had wadded himself with fat, the better to bulldoze his way through life; hated his embarrassing outbursts (who’s Margaret Atwood, though that unbelievable comment is perhaps properly shared with his angry buffoon of a brother).
Above all I hated how he divided us: 905 area coders versus 416 (plain-folks ‘burbs vs. elitist downtowners); gay versus straight, tax-wasting culture vultures vs. sensible Boomer radio middle- and low-brow; Canadians against immigrants, cars against bikes, every fucking thing against everything else, as though citizenship was a zero-sum game of winners (cars, hockey) and losers (bikes, Pride).
A true leader, with vision, who has the courage to ask, “What kind of city do we want? How can we do better by all of our citizens? What are we going to do about poverty and homelessness? What kind of environment do we want to leave to the next generation?” – a true leader thinks big, thinks to the future; a true leader unites, inspires and energizes.
Poor Rob Ford. Just a regular guy.
Men learn to be men of vision, to be civilized beings instead of marauding appetite machines, from wise mentors (often, but not always, their fathers): painfully, slowly, step by humiliating step. It takes a lifetime.
Rob Ford, I think it safe to say, had poor mentors.
And now that he’s gone, if I were to dwell on Rob Ford and his “journey”, I could feel for him; feel how lost he was and experience sadness about unrealized potential and limited horizons and separation and low self-esteem. I could probably bury the hatchet.
I could probably do all of that.
But I’m greedy for exceptional men. Regular guys can do my accounting, I want exceptional ones to be in charge. If you hold public office you are accountable for your actions, and the potential harm you do affects millions; harm that may take decades to heal.
Harm that spins out to its conclusion well after you’ve left office.
Which is why I cannot feel sorry that Ford is gone; will not, cannot forgive his brazen attempt to diminish Toronto’s greatness and destroy Toronto’s future through his arrogance and ineptitude.
Give me the grace to stop now before I become uncivilized. The ersatz king is dead. Long live Toronto.