As the world’s media tramples itself to point a microphone at the hideous creature known as Rob Ford, it behooves us to consider just how it is this man came to head Canada’s largest, richest and arguably most important city.
Mr. Ford of course is a serial abuser: of his staff, of alcohol, of opiates, of food, of himself – and of his family, at least as shills and as props. Ford consumes everything in his path like some kind of gigantic insect, a huge-headed red ant in a football jersey. Now he has been stopped in his tracks and there is a swarm descending on him. That he smoked crack cocaine or guzzled vodka while driving, or staggered in a booze-filled rage through homes, offices and sports venues – that just makes him tastier to the world’s media this afternoon. And tomorrow, no doubt. And the day after.
What the journalists are not writing, what they are not saying, what they are not even thinking is what is most true about Rob Ford: he is not just a creep. He is not just a joke, or a fool, or a drug user. Rob Ford is the drug.
Mr. Ford offered himself to his city the way any drug enters the brain: easily, smoothly, cheaply. He allowed his “Ford Nation” the instant pleasure of a quick hit, in this case affirmation of their prejudices: the people they don’t like, don’t matter; the people who live differently, aren’t really people; the real things that a real city needs, aren’t real. Only “the taxpayers” are important. The small enclosed world of your rec room or your SUV is the whole world; to the losers out there sitting on trains and buses, well, try reading a magazine while you drive an Escalade, buddy! And while downing a mickey of vodka too, sucker!
Rob Ford was the thing that would simplify the complicated world, ease the pain of having to stretch one’s mind around something different or difficult. He made it possible for people to forget who they really are (citizens, not just “taxpayers’) and where they really are (21st century Toronto, not mid-20th century Etobicoke). He made a certain kind of suburban, donut-gobbling contempt respectable again (the other kind of contempt, the educated liberal brand, is always respectable).
Toronto is a real city with real problems, some of which had to do with spending too much money on nonsense. Rob Ford hated that real city and offered a solution for the many voters who were fed up with the clannish, snobbish liberal elitism of the Miller Era. Toronto needed fixing. Taxes were too high. Weird stuff was getting funded, for people with weird problems. ”The taxpayer” wanted to feel better.
So in the proverbial drunken stupor (most Rob Ford voters now can only say that they were stoned at the time), Toronto vaulted this creature into high office and handed him a broadsword: cut, Rob, cut! It was a blunt instrument wielded by a drunken man. After inflicting much harm on innocents, he has impaled himself.
But Rob Ford was – and is – more than the buffoon who got caught. Rob Ford is the drug that modern retail conservatism has become: bigotry, stupidity, ignorance glorified. Anything noble, thoughtful, compassionate, responsible, gentle – has been made a mockery. The unwelcome reality of ACTUAL FACTS swept aside for whatever you want to believe is true.
Ford brings shame to anyone who truly wants to “conserve” what is lasting and good in our civilization, because he is not about that. He is about feeling good about yourself, by feeling bad about others. He is a cheap hit of bad shit. And don’t kid yourself: this drug works – it wins office for no end of evil cretins south of the border, and for some north of it too. Canada’s “most sophisticated city” got stoned on it, after all.
Hey dude, try this, you’ll feel better.
Until you don’t.