Times being what they are, I find occasionally stepping away from it all beneficial to my mental health. To head off and visit somewhere free of the politics of place and simply enjoy the view. I’m just a tourist, taking in the scenery.
It’s been difficult over the last couple years certainly to tear myself away from Toronto politics. Blink for a minute and you may well miss something extraordinary, something you’d never thought you’d see in your lifetime. When you think it couldn’t get any crazier, nothing could top what you’ve just witnessed, those diminished expectations are easily surpassed.
But I’m discovering that such novelty does have its limits. When the incredible becomes simply routine, it loses significance or much of any newsworthiness. The abnormal sinks into the swamp of the new normal.
So it goes with the mayoralty of Rob Ford.
Much has been written in the last few days about the latest antics of His Worship, his aggressive encounter with the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale in a public park outside the mayor’s home in Etobicoke, the controversial appearance of Sun News’ David Menzies on the Ford Brothers’ Sunday radio show and Mayor Ford’s declining to attend the PFLAG flag raising next week. None of it flattering for either our city or the chief magistrate we voted to represent us. “Rob Ford’s stupid and offensive radio show demeans us all” from Matt Elliott. “Send in the clowns” by Edward Keenan. And “Rob Ford and the Banality of Excess” by Michael Kolberg in the Toronto Standard.
There’s not much I can add to the growing canon of Rob Ford is really a bad mayor literature except for a hearty but sad agreement. What was once funny and entertaining has now become just sad and worrisome. Who knew that electing a mayor with destructive anti-urbanist views could adversely affect the city?
I remember way back in 2000 with the election of George W. Bush as president, comedian Richard Belzer saying that while as an American he was sad about the result, as a comedian he couldn’t be happier. The jokes essentially wrote themselves but, 12 years on, America has yet to recover from the debacle.
That’s sort of the feeling that’s developing here. Oh, the fun we are having watching such a sad spectacle but at what cost? In fact, that’s not even quite right. The fun was fleeting. “But a story needs an arc,” Kolberg writes, “and Rob Ford’s administration is a flat line.” Pause.. pause.. pause.. indignant mayoral temper tantrum.. pause.. pause.. pause.. indignant mayoral temper tantrum.. pause.. pause.. pause.. Where’s the new beat to push the story forward?
Actually, that’s being supplied by city council. In the face of Mayor Ford’s inability or interest in leading, a majority of councillors is slowly coalescing to fill the void. Normally unaligned players are now finding common ground in developing an agenda without any positive input from the mayor and city business is being conducted. Perhaps more slowly than it would if a mayor participated but proceeding nonetheless. First time councillors are now finding their footing in the wide open space created by the mayor’s truculent intransigence.
Not all is dark and forlorn.
What is most disturbing about all this, however, is Toronto’s descent into what Benjamin DeMott has called ‘Junk Politics’. It’s the politics of anger, resentment and division that appeals to our worst instincts rather than seeks to inspire our better natures. Watching the risible reactions from the mayor’s supporters in defense of his indefensible actions is increasingly disheartening. There is no wrong in anything he does, no justification that isn’t based on some perceived slight or ulterior motive of those who are not seen as being onside or part of the team. The once vaunted Ford Nation, the mayor’s base, sees only threats not opposing opinions. They thrive in a cesspool of negative catch phrase outrage, unable or unwilling to engage in any semblance of adult discourse.
This is Mayor Ford’s Toronto, his bread and butter and only hope in any sort of political future for himself. They are proud in their obstinance and conviction that the way forward is by looking backwards. It’s a tough nut to crack. One that guarantees a continued war of attrition and a threat to Toronto’s ability to develop into a healthy, productive and fair-minded 21st-century city.
– sadly submitted by Cityslikr