I have never been a Rob Ford fan. It didn’t take him long at all in the last campaign for him to thoroughly disgust me: his stances on issues (he could’ve run for mayor of any large American city and be an instant Chris Christie clone. And then, of course, his swearing-in conducted by none other than Don Cherry. Now, I’m the last person on Earth to disparage others on matters of style, but this was a clusterfuck of epic proportions.
And so has gone his term. Outgoing mayor David Miller said the people might have reason to miss him, and it’s certainly true right now. One of the things any public figure must do is sacrifice—time, energy, talent—in the service of something larger than oneself. Consider Sarah Palin as an example of all one could do wrong, and you see it bound up in her Wasilla tenure. Now, Toronto is not Wasilla, to be sure; that’s why it requires so much more.
Toronto has a generally well-deserved reputation for tolerance. The annual Pride Parade here is by no means only an LGBT affair at all. It’s a civic thing, in which everyone’s encouraged to participate. By the way, it gets local TV coverage much as the Santa Claus parade and Caribana. Former Mayor Miller was a willing participant; in fact, both he and Mel Lastman before him marched or rode in this city’s Pride Parade.
Until 2011, apparently.
Ford’s reason for skipping the parade, in fact the entire ten-day period leading up to it, is that his family has a tradition of going to their cottage that time of year. Sorry, LGBT community. Already booked for that time.
I know his decision doesn’t indict him on a charge of homophobia, but one could surely make a circumstantial case and no doubt some of his critics will. There’s something about that answer he gave, which can be translated to My family means more to me than does the gay/lesbian/trans community because personal tradition trumps the performance of my duty as mayor, and oh by the way, go fuck yourselves—that just sickens me. He doesn’t care about this other tradition, however recent, and it’s plain he’d rather be with his family than a crowd of gays and lesbians. And he doesn’t much care what you or I make of it. He’s mayor and that’s all Rob Ford cares about, something else that suits him so well tempermentally for U.S. politics, that TP single-mindedness.
Krystyn Wong-Tam has it right. It means that Ford doesn’t care about the LGBT community. I do wish this would bring about some buyers’ remorse regarding their votes for this man, but it’s doubtful. Ford was a known commodity going in; people had more than ample time and opportunity to suss him out. They voted for him anyway, which I regard as a deeply tragic mistake that will affect Toronto for years after the brothers Ford are a political memory.
A mayor must be mayor of all the people. That means all. I don’t care how homophobic Rob Ford might be, whether he breaks out in hives whenever he meets a gay person, who cares? That title Mayor means something profound and important in public life. For most of us, the mayor of our town is the primary local symbol of political authority; power is real, but so is respoonsibility. He has the job, and the sash that goes with it; now he has to prove his worth to the entire city, not just the rich and well-connected. Since it’s clear he simply doesn’t recognize such facts as they are is a genuine indicator of his worldview. By turning his back on the gay community this way (and were I him I’d have sat down with my family, shown them the sash, and said, “Look, folks, the sash might be silly but the job is real. I’m expected to be there and do this no matter what. We’ll reschedule for later,” except he didn’t think to do that) he might as well go the rest of the way and start saying those words many people are now at least fairly certain he says to himself whenever he meets any gay or lesbian constituent.
And this, of course, is what he’s conveniently forgetting: these people remain constituents, with all the voting power of whites whether Ford likes that fact or not. They make a powerful voting bloc if so motivated, and Ford should rightly fear a backlash come the next election; there’s no reason why anyone should forget it. Ford reached back and slapped hard, if mindlessly, like a dim but somewhat violent parent. He connected.
I’d like for all of Toronto to bear Ford’s decision in mind as his term progresses toward its end, which cannot come too soon. On the night he was elected I said to my wife, “Nothing he does will surprise me,” and sure enough, nothing has. David Miller did it right; he recognized that its necessary to serve all the people, and widely supported gay rights throughout his tenure. All that’s come to an abrupt end. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Barack Obama’s getting ready to host a gay-pride event next week. And Rob Ford can’t be bothered to simply ride on a float for an hour and a half waving at people dressed in costumes?
That, Toronto, is Rob Ford. Take your measure of him now, if you dare.