Rob Ford was not a personal friend. He wasn’t even an acquaintance. I met him a half a dozen times, shared a debate stage with him once, and interviewed his brother Doug when I ran into him at City Hall.
But I did not know him personally. I do not know his wife, or his children. I have no loyalties to the Fords, and in the past I have been one of their most vocal critics, slamming the late mayor’s buffoonery and marveling at the size of the electorate who were willfully blind to the man’s utter incompetence.
When he was still in office, all of these criticisms were fair game. The man was an addict, and most progressives I know understand that addiction is a mental health issue and needs to be treated as such. Nonetheless, the man was in charge of our nation’s largest metropolitan, and being an addict did not absolve him from the rightful criticism he received.
It’s really easy to mock him, and for those of us who thought he was unfit to be mayor it is really easy to feel vindicated.
But then he sought treatment. And then he was diagnosed with cancer. And then he died.
Death is bigger than politics, and Rob Ford left a legacy that nobody should ever have the misfortune of matching. For all the phone calls and house visits, there were also drug and alcohol binges, racist remarks, and a host of other unsavory moments.
But he’s dead now.
The infamous crack smoking video has been released. As originally reported by Robin Doolittle and Kevin Donovan, it shows Ford holding a crack pipe, speaking inaudibly, and under the influence of at least alcohol and crack cocaine. It’s really easy to mock him, and for those of us who thought he was unfit to be mayor it is really easy to feel vindicated. It’s a little too easy, actually.
Death usually has the last word. Not this time. People have shelved their common sense as it pertains to addiction, replacing it with a snickering response in the form of video shares. Let’s not sugarcoat it, if you are sharing the Rob Ford video you are contributing to a brutally voyeuristic culture of shaming a dead drug addict, full stop. Under the guise of proving once and for all to those who thought the crack video was fake, many in the online world seems giddy with vindication, proclaiming their righteousness while adding to the shit show.
This is why politics is such a bad barometer for real life. Many of the same individuals who are dancing on Ford’s coffin were livid when Jack Layton was vilified on the day he died. The hypocrisy, demonstrated through the endlessly rehashed laundry list of Ford’s personal failings, as if running through that list means anything now that he’s gone, should be painfully obvious to anyone who is watching this spectacle unfold.
Because for the first time ever, I know Ford Nation is right about something. They were wrong about Ford being a good mayor, they were wrong about Ford’s respect for taxpayers, and they were wrong about how his addiction did not impact his leadership. But, they are right about this; kicking a dead drug addict’s gravestone by mocking him in that video is morally bankrupt.
Did I mention he’s been dead for nearly five months?
Rob Ford’s widow, Renata, and two children, Stephanie and Doug, stand and watch as his casket is carried away from the St. James Cathedral after his funeral, in Toronto on March 30, 2016. (Photo by Melissa Renwick/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Maybe it’s because I know what it is like to be defined by my worst attributes, my deepest flaws or my biggest mistakes. Maybe it’s because I have fought my own battles with drugs and alcohol. The release of this video, while understandable given its history, has elicited such a vile reaction from self-proclaimed do-gooders that I can no longer view progressives as the good guys.
Social media turns socially active people into hypocrites who say all the right things but feel none of the actual emotions that usually accompany traditional goodwill. Think about it; non-conservatives were once ridiculed for caring about things like drug addiction too much. They were called bleeding hearts for a reason. It took the advent of social media, a larger than life drug addict, and municipal politics to reveal the truth about modern progressives: bleeding hearts run dry when you can’t get blood from a stone.
The video will probably be one of the most shard videos in the world. Imagine being his kids, growing up and being bullied at school for having the world’s most famous crackhead. I never thought I’d have a Maude Flanders moment, but seriously…won’t anyone just think of his children?
I didn’t know Rob Ford. I didn’t like his politics. But he’s dead now, and that should be a good enough reason not to tar and feather his corpse.
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