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Rob Ford is More Than a Train Wreck – He’s a Human Being

Since his admission that he had lied about not smoking crack cocaine last Tuesday, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been at the centre of an international storm of controversy, commentary, accusation and ridicule. In Canada, it has eclipsed the Senate Expense Scandal and pretty much any announcement by both the federal and various provincial governments.

Most of us have weighed in on the issue especially since the release of another video showing the Mayor seemingly drunk and out of control.

Some of us have criticized him for his behaviour and his duplicity; some of us have rushed to support him, distorting and massaging facts to mitigate what he’s done. Others mock him and some are now criticizing the media for their reporting or their commentary or their bias or whatever it is they feel angst over.

It’s the flavour of the day on social media and like so many issues, the humanity of it somehow gets lost in the rhetoric.

Whatever else he may or may not be; whatever he may have or have not done – Rob Ford is a fellow human being and he’s in crisis. He hasn’t fully admitted it to himself yet. Like many in similar personal situations he’s still in denial as evidenced by his Tuesday press conference but while the rest of us comment and bicker about him, he is a human being who is unraveling in front of us.

Some blame the media for pursuing the story but that’s like blaming the person who reports the crime rather than the one who committed it. It is the job of the media to report on stories like this; especially when they concern our elected officials. It’s how we protect our democracy from those who would undermine it. When they don’t do their job – we have a problem as was seen last year during the American Presidential Election when most of the media refused to cover the revelations related to Benghazi.

The so-called Ford-Nation, the Mayor’s core support base are defending him and demanding he be allowed to finish his term in office. They dismiss his actions as trivial when compared to what he has accomplished while those who want the Mayor gone dismiss his accomplishments to focus only on his transgressions.

Too many people have lined up to take sides about the seriousness of his offenses without regard for the fact that he is in a downward spiral. Even his own mother stated that he should not resign and that all he needed to do was smarten up and lose some weight. Denial isn’t restricted to only the person in crisis.

He shouldn’t resign? God in Heaven! If ever there was someone who should resign, if for no other reason than to save his life, Rob Ford is it.

He doesn’t need a few weeks in rehab; he needs serious counseling and help. It’s not because he’s stupid although he seems to have done some seriously stupid things nor is it because he is immoral although his admission of smoking crack is an admission of illegality. I believe him when he talks about his love of the city and his desire to make it a better place but he’s not only failing his city now – he’s failing himself.

Rob Ford is close to his family and it is clear that where he is right now is causing them concern and pain. He has small children who are at risk of losing the father they knew and love. Even the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart has recognized that this situation has gone beyond a joke;

“Mayor Ford’s a lot of fun to ridicule but my guess is, not a lot of fun to eulogize and that’s where this thing is headed. . .Please go to rehab.”

Those who think this is a political right vs. left issue are wrong nor is it an issue legalities anymore. We’re well-past that now.

This is a human issue and there is no room for partisanship. Enabling Rob Ford’s continuing descent to self-destruction which is basically all his supporters do will virtually guarantee that his life continues to be put at risk. Simply throwing him under the bus as those who oppose his politics seem to be intent on doing accomplishes pretty much the same thing.

It’s time for everyone concerned: the Ford Nation, city council, the Premier, the media, his family and closest friends to realize that there is a need for intervention. We can’t all intervene but we can back off. Supporters of Rob Ford can stop enabling his substance abuse by trivializing it. His critics can stop trying to wring every drop of blood out of each gory detail.

And those who mock and ridicule him can simply give thanks that there but for the grace of God go they.

It has become all too prevalent to trample the humanity of others in this Brave New World we’re creating for ourselves. Political opponents and their supporters are dehumanized and turned into demagogues or demons and we can no longer discuss any issue without criticism, anger or accusation. When the inevitable tragedy happens like the suicide of another young girl because of online bullying – we all cluck our teeth and wonder what has happened to our society. We offer up a few words of sympathy and go right back to teaching our children how to bully others.

Rob Ford is very much the author of his own misfortune. Nobody forced him to abuse alcohol, nobody forced him to smoke crack or to lie about it but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us should overlook the fact that he is a human being in trouble and use him to entertain ourselves or merely to prove a point.

There are very few of us who are qualified to judge him either. Too many of us take delight in the misfortunes of others or rush to overlook the sins of those we support but in the end, both sides accomplish the same thing. They distort the truth and dehumanize the individual.

Like all those we castigate day after day, Rob Ford is more than the Mayor of Toronto. He is a father, a brother and a son. He is an uncle and a friend and colleague.

We don’t have to overlook what he has done nor do we have to turn a blind eye to whatever future consequences his actions might bring. There will be time enough for that some other day but that day isn’t today. Instead of waiting for the eulogy, a little empathy for the man and his family now would go a long way.

It might also remind us that all those others we vilify; the lefties, the cons, welfare recipients, unions, environmentalists, Muslims, Christians, gays and countless others are really nothing more than human beings just like Rob Ford and maybe we could afford them a little more respect and common decency in the future too.

I believe it is possible to disagree with each other; to passionately debate and deal with issues without having to manipulate the truth or denigrate and dehumanize our fellow citizens.

I believe we would be a more successful society if more people started to remember that again instead of acting like trolls on a rampage.


© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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  • concat

    Even though I don’t think I could call myself a supporter (don’t live in Toronto anyway so it’s moot) I have to say all the non stop negative stuff 24/7 has actually made me admire him in a strange way, that he has kept on going. And I agree there is more than enough hypocrisy amongst those critics who are at him and his family

    • MaggiesBear

      I wrote this piece before he proved himself to be even worse than his detractors have claimed. I still believe we are too quick to judge but in Rob Ford’s case, it would appear some are reluctant to face the reality of what he has done or what he is. I have no sympathy for someone who has so little respect for his office, the people who elected him, his family and himself. He is actually delighting in his celebrity rather than exhibiting any contrition whatsoever. It’s time for him to go.

      • concat

        True it is time – for so many reasons, but I still feel for his kids nevertheless and you made some good points regardless

        • MaggiesBear

          I feel for his children too and it is because he has shown little concern and respect himself for them that I have lost any respect for him.

  • Concerned Canadian

    Thank you for this perspective. I’ve spent the last two hours trying to find one piece of media that will at least consider this point of view. I was recently knocked down on social media for holding this opinion, and truly feel that if it weren’t for the very one-sided global media soap opera on this issue, there would be room for more collaborative dialogue on the various perspectives. I don’t see how sharing more ‘ugly pictures of our mayor’ is accomplishing anything, besides teaching the younger generation that as long as there are enough people who will agree with your perspective, then it is okay to bully someone to get what you want. I actually had one Torontonian tell me today that she won’t join the petition for Rob Ford to show some integrity and step down because ‘it’s too cold outside’, and she doesn’t care enough. But, she is fully ‘enjoying the poking fun’ aspect of this saga, and people are actually supporting this point of view. One other person told me that this form of harassment is the only way we, as Canadians, can get what we want. Apparently coercing someone to a point of complete dismay, is how we solve our world issues. I don’t think that’s helping accomplish our political goals, and if it is, it is definitely not assisting our goals as a progressive society. This naturally leads me to think that Canadians are so desperate for connection, that they’ve found a way to justify this approach so they can unify around the water cooler, at the expense of someone’s mental health, family and quite possibly, life. I watched my own mother take her life because of mental health issues and substance abuse, which could have been prevented with more compassion from her loved ones. Although Ford is a public figure, the concern and focus should be on how to get him to recognize that stepping down and getting assistance is the appropriate thing to do. Watching the people who eventually broke my mother, engage in jokes and discussions about an ‘ugly fat crackhead’, really concerns me. Especially when they never engaged in any Rob Ford discussions in the past, or even live in Toronto. Surely harassment is not the only way? And what more will it take for us to consider a different perspective? After admitting his drug use, instead of focusing on petitioning for him to step down, social media was more concerned with sharing fat jokes and memes about crack cocaine. If even one of my friends tried to rally a group together to raise constructive signs, petitioning that he step down, I would have flown to Toronto to support this voice. For all the anti-bullying initiatives and social movements towards creating awareness and change, are we proving as a nation that we don’t really support any of it by being so united on ridiculing one man? I’ve almost lost my trust in Canadians, because it feels ‘icky’ to see friends of mine campaign against cyber-bullying and then partake in it themselves, just because they know it will be generally accepted. It’s even more concerning to think that because I’m not interested in bashing a human being until they’ve reached their limits (as mayor, or as a living person), that my point of view is not only consistently ignored, but attacked. Does this thought process make me a bad person? Does this make me an enabler? I don’t think so. What’s even worse is that the people who support my opinion are so afraid of the vicious retaliation of Ford protestors, that they won’t even speak up about their perspective. They thanked me for stating my position on social media, but each one did so privately. I thought this was the issue we were trying to solve in our world today – for people to have a voice so we can engage in collaborative and educational discussion and debate, and create movements for change. So thank you for making me feel like I’m not alone, because I have spent all day today feeling like I’m in the twilight zone. Feeling attacked for having any compassion, and silenced for my point of view. I am a former Torontonian, and I do hope they get the leadership they deserve soon, but just because I’m not engaging in Twitter feeds dedicated to Rob Ford’s weight issues, doesn’t mean I don’t support that he needs help and should step down. I hope that eventually, this point of view can be voiced without being vilified.

    • Bert_1

      Well said and, no, you are not alone. Maybe I’m just a contrarian at heart but this bullshit has firmed up my support for Rob. I can understand, from a compassionate perspective, some people’s calls for him to step down, but unless he is suffering serious mental health problems, I would rather see him stay the course.

      I am also with you on the degradation of Canadian society. The hypocrisy of so many people who decry bullying and intolerance yet who are some of the most intolerant bullies out there. I’m not sure why – or even if – they can see the extent of their own hypocrisy but either way, they don’t seem inclined to address it. I am very afraid for Canada.

  • Neil D

    With just about everyone urging Rob Ford to take some time off to seek help the one thing I haven’t heard from anyone is a desire for him to continue as mayor once his demons are in check. I hope he seeks help, takes time off and then returns to fight on behalf of the Toronto taxpayers once more.
    The best line I’ve heard all week was , “I’d rather have a drunk Rob Ford as mayor than a sober Adam Vaughan.”.

    • MaggiesBear

      It remains to be seen whether he is capable of remaining mayor or even wants to once he begins to deal with his personal issues. That isn’t just for us to decide.There will be time for that discussion down the road. Right now, the only issue should be the recognition that this is a human being who has done some good and some self-destructive things and before he can move forward as mayor or in his personal life, he needs to deal with that. We need to back off and stop treating him like some kind of perverse reality show that is being run for our amusement.

  • CanadaGoose1

    Reminds me of all the fun at Mike Duffy’s expense because he is overweight. Even a huge balloon with his image! I try to think of the good Ford tried to do coaching young people in football. I think part of the reason he is not listening to his critics is because they have cried wolf too often and harassed him over stupid things – now that it is serious, they are not being heeded.

    • MaggiesBear

      That’s the whole point. We’re turning opponents into cartoon caricatures rather than seeing them for what they are – fellow human beings. It’s one thing to disagree with someone’s politics or religious beliefs; it’s something else completely to treat them as less than human simply because we don’t agree with them. We’re teaching our children that it’s ok to denigrate and bully those they don’t like with our own behaviour.

  • Cytotoxic

    I still don’t care. I just want good management and Ford sort-of provides it.

    • MaggiesBear

      He won’t provide much of anything if he’s dead.

  • V103115

    Thank you for expressing so very eloquently, what I have tried in vain to explain to people who see Rob Ford as nothing but an obese, drunken buffoon instead of the human being he is, like the rest of us.

    • MaggiesBear

      I just get tired of it all after awhile; the constant harranguing against Justin Trudeau, the Senate, Rob Ford, Liberals, Conservatives. We’re all just human beings. Debate the issues certainly but why we have to denigrate and dehumanize those with whom we disagree escapes me.

      • V103115

        Agreed, Maggie. Everyone from both sides of the political coin is wound a little too tight these days and it’s almost useless to debate any issues.

  • Bert_1

    I have to admit that I was very angry when I saw the latest video. It appears to have taken place in someone’s home (Rob’s) and I was incensed that someone would be low enough to surreptitiously take a video of an obviously inebriated Rob Ford and then publicize if. Such scum of the earth assholes are the most disgusting creatures.

    I am not trying to excuse Rob either. Like you said, he has a problem and he needs to address it, probably with professional help. Releasing a video like this, though, doesn’t help Rob Ford or anyone else.

    PS: It’s nice to see your blog take a more positive approach to an issue. I was getting concerned because many of your recent articles were quite negative. Welcome back :-)

    • MaggiesBear

      I’m a lot more positive than you may realize :-) I just get fed up with the hypocrisy and double standards – especially among some of my more passionate fellow conservatives. I’m really concerned about the future, Bert. I have grandchildren that I adore and I am concerned about what kind of an angry, accusatory world we are bequeathing to them.

      My daughter and son-in-law work overtime to teach the kids manners, respect and courtesy but it seems like they are being taught dying arts. There is no need for disagreement or differing political opinions to turn us into snarling animals in the jungle. You and I don’t always agree but we don’t go at each other hammer and tong. We can discuss and debate an issue without making it personal.

      I guess what you see as negative is my frustration with those who can’t debate issues like you and I. They seem to feel that the only way to prove their point is to denigrate and dehumanize others and I am increasingly angry and concerned about what those folks are doing to the Conservative Party and our society in general.

      • Bert_1

        The reason I kept reading your blog posts when I first came across them was because you were positive and made sense. I wasn’t trying to criticize you, either. I just found that a few of your latest posts were more negative than normal and I was concerned.

        I have a 10 month old granddaughter at home (actually, we adopted her so I guess that makes her my daughter) and I am concerned for her as well. But, when I find that I am starting to spiral down into a pit of negativity over what that beautiful little girl will be facing throughout her life, I remind myself that Jesus said that all of this stuff has to come to pass and that He is in control. It may look to me that the whole world is in a death spiral from which there is no escape, but that is just my take, not God’s. And, to reject that premise is to reject God. So, everything will work out. :-)

        I understand and share your frustration. But, in the case of Rob Ford, my more immediate concern is that he might do something to harm himself. Can you imagine if a video of you like that last one was made public? If you didn’t have a strong safety net of family and friends, you would be in dire straits.

        There will always be people who do stupid/bad things. Conservatives are no different. But, if we dwell on just the negative stuff, you can kiss another Conservative government goodbye. Yes, Harper did some things and let other things happen that he shouldn’t have. He also did some very great things for our country that would NEVER have happened if he wasn’t PM. So, we need to focus on the positive things that happened, not the negative. Yes, we have to be prepared to deal with the negative, but that mustn’t be the only thing we see. Maybe some good will come out of this whole Senate scandal. If Harper is tha man I think he is, I bet that Canada will be stronger for this scandal in the future.

        • MaggiesBear

          I didn’t consider you comment to be critical; just a valid observation and I confess I’ve been on a tear lately. The Senate mess and the viscious way it was handled really got to me. I respect your quote from Christ but I also remember that scripture says that the Lord helps them that help themselves and, to be honest, I don’t find the acrimony and vitrolic very helpful.

          To be honest, my favourite posts are the funny ones and I would much rather be writing those than what I’ve felt compelled to write lately.

          • Bert_1

            I’m not sure what religion you re (if any) but I am currently reading “The Future of Catholicism” by Michael Coren. I am only in the first chapter but I highly recommend it. If you are Catholic, it will help explain the position of the Church on various subjects. If you are Christian but not Catholic, it will help you understand those subject in relation to Sacred Scripture. If you are an Atheist, it will help you understand the hypocrisy of so many in the main stream media in their condemnation, not only of the Catholic Church but of Conservatism because many of the same tactics are used in vilifying both. Rob Ford is a perfect example of the lies and obfuscations used to make something/someone good look bad and vice versa.

            • MaggiesBear

              I’m an Anglican but I’m not fanatical about it. Maggie is Catholic and we are equally comfortable in either church., Our daughters are buddhist and we have atheists, agnostics, Lutherans, Baptists and whatever in the family. I believe that no one religion has a monopoly on the truth because all religion is man-made. I also believe there are many different paths to God and it falls to each of us to choose the path that is right for us or to choose not to make a choice.

              I just finished reading Zealot and am now reading A History of God by Karen Armstrong.I try to read things that challenge my opinions and beliefs as much as support them,

              • Bert_1

                I don’t mean for this to get into a religious argument, but Jesus says “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter [Greek, Petros, rock], and upon this rock [Greek, petra, rock] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” in Matt 16:18. Therefore, the Catholic Church (the one that Peter ended up the Pope of) was started by Jesus, not by another man – Peter or otherwise. Since Jesus says *I* will build *MY* Church, I can see no other interpretation.

                But, yes, we should read things that challenge us.

                • MaggiesBear

                  Christ also called on Saul to preach to the gentiles, not to convert them to Catholicism. All Christian denominations are founded on The Rock, not merely the Catholic faith.

                  • Bert_1

                    I disagree quite emphatically with you but this isn’t the place for such a discussion. Maybe you should write a blog on the origins of Christianity and we could have an interesting discussion… :-)

                    • MaggiesBear

                      I do’t mind that we disagree although I will confess that I am less concerned with which faith is the more legitimate because I tend to consider my self simply a Christian rather than an Anglican. It wasn’t until the 2nd century C.E. that the Catholic church really came into being. It was formed after a series of conferences over many decades where men, not God, hammered out the doctrine. Since then there have reformations, splinter denominations and other things that have both affected the Catholic Church and also the evolution of new denominations. For me it comes down to something I was told once by a Catholic priest who was a papal legate.

                      He told me that the differences between most Christian faiths and the Catholic church were merely administrative; that it was the same God and the same faith but merely practiced in different ways. I personally believe that God isn’t too particular about which order of service or doxology we follow when we worship him.

                      But you’re right. We need to be sitting in front of the fireplace with an excellent bottle of brandy to really do this discussion justice.. :-)

                    • Bert_1

                      Actually, the Catholic Church came into being when Jesus created it (Matt 16:18). No, it wasn’t called “the Catholic Church” but Peter was the first Pope as witnessed in the Acts of the Apostles.

                      I suppose you could call the difference between Protestant and Catholic Churches “administrative” but I think that it is much more. The Protestant (and Orthodox Catholic) deny the position of the Pope. That, to me is critical. Of course, there are some denominations that are Christian in name only, but that’s a different story.

                      I honestly don’t know if God cares about which Church we belong to except for what He outlined in the Book of Revelation. We were warned that some Churches will be “lukewarm” and that we would do well to avoid them. I don’t know exactly which Churches they are, but I feel quite safe with the Catholic Church.

                      You realize, of course, that I would win any debate we had while sitting in front of a fireplace with a good bottle of Brandy. Since I don’t drink, you would slowly lose your ability to form coherent sentences leaving the field open to any argument I care to make :-)

                      Getting back to the topic of the blog, I have come to the conclusion that this whole obsession with Rob Ford is nothing more than a diversionary tactic to draw people’s attention away from the real problems facing Ontario: the Provincial Government. You hardly hear anything about the Liberal debacle anymore. Everything is about Ford now.

                    • MaggiesBear

                      I’m going to have to reconsider my strategy. I don’t drink either so I thought if I plied you with brandy, I would automatically win the debate. This is going to be more challenging than I thought. :-)

                      I happen to agree with you about some denominations. There are some that are less a Christian faith than they are a service club. I remember a couple of decades or so ago, the then Moderator of the United Church questioned the divinity of Christ. I wasn’t offended by that, to each their own but it seemed to me then and still does that to call yourself a Christian, you pretty much have to believe in Christ.

                      Sometimes it makes you scratch your head, doesn’t it?

                    • Bert_1

                      My mom always told me that I was a challenge :-)

                      I don’t have much to do with the United Church but I have heard the same thing. I have often wondered how any Church that claims to be Christian can do things like deny the Divinity of Christ or perform same sex marriages. I always figured that, if you are Christian, then you have to follow the teachings of Christ. If you can’t or won’t follow those teachings, fine, just don’t call yourself a Christian.

                      Sometimes I scratch my head, sometimes I beat it against a wall. I prefer scratching, though…

                    • MaggiesBear

                      I remember a number of years ago that a memorial service was to be held on the shore of the Atlantic to commemorate the lives lost in downing of a passenger jet. It was to be led by the Moderator of the United Church who struck the Lord’s Prayer from the service. I always found that quite odd considering it is the only prayer that is actually scriptural. Sometime folks just wander a little too far of the reserve.