This blog has always been about discussing national security and counter-terrorism policies and their implications. However, in today’s version of Security, Eh, I would be remiss (as a Torontonian) if I didn’t put in my two cents regarding the Rob Ford situation. Don't worry, the NSA snooping fiasco isn't going anywhere, there's still plenty of time left to discuss that mess in future posts.
Many people on this side of the pond will know Rob Ford as Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor. For months, Ford has been embroiled in a seemingly endless string of scandals pertaining to his substance abuse, inappropriate comments, general "boorish" behaviour, and impeccable ability to have all of these somehow repeatedly captured on video. The “boiling” point of these scandals came last week when Ford finally admitted to smoking crack cocaine during one of his “drunken stupors”, whilst at the same time stating that he had no intention of stepping down as Mayor of one of North America’s largest cities. To add insult to injury, the “apology” was followed by the release of a profanity-laden video in which a clearly inebriated Ford angrily rants about committing “first-degree murder”.
Queue the global media frenzy. For all the wrong reasons, Ford has become a worldwide talking point and a dream for the North American late-night talk show circuit.
As a Torontonian, and as one that lives abroad, the last week’s events brought forward a mixture of emotions: anger, shame, disappointment, confusion, and concern. I started out angry. I was angry that the conversations I was having with my U.K. colleagues about the city I call home were focused not at all on its merits (multicultural population, vibrant nightlife, educational and professional opportunities) but rather on the trials and tribulations of its mayor. This morphed into shame and disappointment, largely when I couldn’t explain to these colleagues how on earth it was possible for this man to gain and retain his place in public office. Then came confusion, as I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that Ford’s approval rating had actually climbed during last week’s fiasco.
I took to social media to express these emotions. I watched the late-night circuit hosts roast Ford to satisfy my need to see the man publicly castigated. And then, courtesy of Jon Stewart, an American political pundit whose balancing of wit and insight I’ve always admired, concern settled in. I’m not talking about concern for my city’s reputation, nor am I talking about concern for its logistical operation. I’m talking about concern for the emotional health and life of what is a seriously damaged (mentally and physically) fellow human being.
Says Stewart after 2:55 in the video:
“Are you waiting for this man to hit rock bottom? … Mayor Ford is 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”
Stewart is right, rock bottom can't be far away. Protests of Ford have become an almost a daily feature at Toronto’s City Hall. Ford was greeted with a spattering of boos and called a “druggie” by a veteran who refused to shake his hand at this week’s Remembrance Day ceremonies. That kind of public embarrassment would do damage to even the most emotionally stable human being, which Ford clearly is not, nor claims to be.
Although there are currently no municipal and provincial mechanisms to force Ford out of office, particularly because he hasn’t been charged and convicted of a crime, there’s good reason to believe that such charges may surface at some point from now until next year, when Ford hopes to again run for Mayor. Today, Ford is set to face a debate on a city council motion asking him to apologize for his mistakes and take leave. And who knows what kind of other video material is floating out there (in addition to the now infamous video showing Ford blazing up that Toronto Police have confirmed is in their possession).
Bottom line: More scrutiny to follow, more potential embarrassment, and more emotional trauma for a man whose fuse looks as though it is perpetually ready to blow.
So this is my plea to you, Mr. Ford: Admit you have a problem and get some help. Somewhere deep down inside you know you need it, and you wouldn’t be the first figure in the public eye to admit they need help with substance abuse. I know this isn’t the most original of requests, as just about everyone and their dog has suggested it, especially over the course of the last week. But this request doesn’t come from an angry and disappointed Toronto resident. It doesn’t come from a city councillor trying to shame you for their own political gain. It doesn’t come from a confused late-night television pundit, wondering how they can still continue to mock you even if you’ve stepped aside. It comes from a fellow human being, geographically and mentally distanced from you and the city you represent, one who doesn’t care to see you, or any other person for that matter, crash into that rock bottom.