Rob Ford

Rob Ford takes a break from a press conference and attempts to name the NFL’s most winningest coach.

This was going to be about empathizing with Rob Ford. Then he wore that tie. I was going to claim that if literature teaches us empathy, maybe it could help us empathize with Ford. But then, by fictionalizing real people, don’t we run the risk of simplifying them and thus making it easier to vilify them? No, I was going to argue, because politicians are already kind-of fictional characters simplified in order to be easily vilified, even if the vilifiers pretend empathy toward them (it’s the vilification, after all, that sells papers).

I was going to suggest that by fictionalizing Rob Ford, we might actually be able to detach him and Ford Nation from politics in order to gain a less biased perspective. I believe that still holds for Ford Nation, as it does for the Tea Party. Those of us who ideologically oppose those entities do a disservice both to ourselves and to the people in those movements if we fail to at least attempt to relate to their perspectives (note: perspectives, as opposed to a simplified, unified perspective). Doing so most likely won’t change any minds completely, but just one piece of common ground is better than us rolling our eyes at them, they rolling them back at us, and the whole fucked up world just rollin’ on atilt as usual. I’m having a hard time including Rob Ford in that attempt, though. I feel bad about this, but it’s that goddamn tie’s fault.

Don’t get me wrong. Ford’s agenda reeks. I could entertain the idea that any government could use a culling every once in a while, but never did this guy show the capacity or discipline to do so responsibly. If he really wanted to cut government’s fat, to pour over ever detail looking for efficiencies or waste, he might have actually treated the job as full time. Still, government efficiency can be validly pursued (maybe even without using it as an excuse to punish the “parasites” of society) and so that value should be given some measure of respect (respect which the holders of that value, like everyone, should be expected to earn in the pursuit of that value).

Admittedly, the pursuit of empathy for Rob Ford would’ve been an academic one. I would have been stretching to see how far the experiment could go. Could I even start to like the guy? But no. As my friends and colleagues—urban-types, all—piled on the poor sap of City Hall every bone in my body laughed with them. I still agree with Robyn Urback that in the end Rob Ford’s troubles are more sad than joyous, but there are times when, in the immortal words of Q-Tip, “I guess I laugh to keep from cryin’.”

Still—STILL—I held out hope that I could imagine a Rob Ford I could relate to. Like, what if he was just the boisterous drunk guy in front of you at a ball game? No, because he’d be the one who took it too far, kept yelling after the novelty wore off, who passed his peak of funny drunk and just kept going (until, “woops, there’s a crack pipe in my mouth!”).

Then there is the tie, the emblem of a man unable to match himself to his task. On the day he was to admit, finally, to not only smoking crack, but also to being too drunk to know he was smoking crack, he wore a tie littered with the emblems of NFL teams. On a day when, you would think, he should be taking every opportunity to appear at all serious, he wears the tie a 12-year-old boy wears because even though it’s a stupid boring tie that denotes the inevitability of having to eventually grow up, at least it’s football related.

Then again, Ford has never played the part, and that’s a big part of why his following is so strong. But being a maverick requires the ability to survive outside the law of your environment. As Bob Dylan told us, to do that “you must be honest.” As I argued earlier in this space, Rob Ford is at least candid and straightforward. If not technically honest, we know more or less where he stands, and he holds his ground with a tenacity and candidness that attempts honest expression. Hell, he probably wore that tie just because it was inappropriate, just to piss me off.

But Rob Ford lacks the true rigour of the honesty he holds up as his own standard. He claims to want good clean government that doesn’t waste the people’s money. He thinks this makes him an outsider, so he embraces that image. But it’s one thing to wear an inappropriate tie. It’s another to wear it well.

Leave a Reply