Dear Media: Lay Off Mayor Rob Ford

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Dear Media: Lay Off Mayor Rob Ford

11.14.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

I’m a great supporter of democracy. I respect it. And while politics isn’t my focal point of passion, I have always upheld the belief in the importance of exercising my right and privilege as a voter come election time. And while I respect the different platforms held by differing parties, belonging to a particular party hasn’t always been my cup of Jo. It’s always been more important for me to be aware of issues facing council, and best support, and vote for councillors who stand as I do on the issues I believe to be important.

But, as I said, I’m a great supporter of democracy. The majority wins. Fair’s fair.

My only regret about Toronto’s attitude, if not the entirety of our country’s attitude, is its lack of support of its political leaders once they actually come into power. Okay, so you didn’t vote for the actual incumbent winner. Boo-hoo.

But, it seems to me, Canadians are extremely passionate about their lack of support of their elected leaders once they actually come to power. Unlike our American neighbours in the U.S., opposition is quite strong in attacking its leaders instead of supporting them in light of subverting the authority they actually have in hopes that they are able to tarnish someone’s reputation, likeability, and/or compromise his/her platform.

I hardly hear praises in politics once an election has been won, but rather loud complaints—very loud complaints. If the majority wins, why does the minority who lost, feel compelled to be the loudest and angriest voices featured and highlighted in the media?

Ever hear that verse, “A house divided amongst itself will not stand?” Yeah, that. And then we wonder why politics in Canada has always taken a divisive turn?

As a city and a country we easily speak of “unity,” as a proverbial idea in which we can all feel wonderfully positive, inclusive, and good—needless to say, maybe even “warm and fuzzy,”—but the “unified” idea in which we easily throw around is simply not evident in our politics.

That aside, I do have an opinion about Rob Ford—like all do, it seems since he came into mayoral power and more so when the alleged and confessed use of crack cocaine came into view.

First off, I’m not a supporter of the use of non-medicinal drugs by anyone. Do I smoke cigarettes? I used to—twelve years ago. Do I drink? Socially, sure, but I’m not one to drink often or drink until I make a complete fool out of myself, but I’ll have a glass of red wine with dinner sometimes should my wine complement my meal.

Yet, at the same time, I look at the controversy surrounding Mayor Rob Ford and the ferocity of Toronto’s attack on him, as well as the incessant fervor media has in exploiting his misfortune—and truthfully—my compassion for him cries out. Deeply, if not loudly. (I, unlike others, need not scream to get my point across.)

Aside from democracy, I’ve always tended to gravitate towards the underdog’s corner, the less fortunate side, advocating always for justice for the marginalized, the displaced, and the needy. And while I’m not the strongest amongst my peers, I’ve always felt a protective nature towards those who get bullied. I was, after all, bullied as a child and can empathize with those that suffer it immensely. It’s just in my nature and sensibility.

When Rob Ford was elected, he was elected by the majority of Torontonians because he’s not a “politician’s politician,” but a “man of the people,” known best for his strong criticism of councillors’ spending, and his promise to get Toronto back on track financially.

He was never a man of eloquence, nor a man who spoke in political rhetoric. He was always a man who spoke plainly and of the streets. That’s what the majority of Torontonians liked about him—that he spoke their language, not the political one that could be construed as smooth, and sweet, and easy, as it might be deceitful.

He was like that at the beginning of the election and he remains the same now as elected mayor of the city. People who voted him into power was well aware of that.

But, since the controversy of news regarding a video showing Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, the city, as well as the world, has gone into a frenzy. First in bewilderment, then as an international joke, right down to sinister attack mode.

While it’s easier to have the mob-mentality, “Yes, let’s gang up on the guilty party because hey, he’s in the public eye, and everyone is mortified by his actions,” the fervour in which Rob Ford is daily attacked is more mortifying to me.

Media in its hunger to tell not the most compelling or truthful stories are heavy-bent on sensationalizing stories in order to get readership. The worse the story, the better it is for the newspaper, the newscast, the television. Am I right? I mean, how many stories of the “good” that’s done in our cities are actually featured? Do we as a people gravitate towards stories about fluffy kittens, acts of kindness, or ordinary acts that should generally make one smile or become more positive?

Hell no. It appears the majority of people prefer blood, carnage, violence, vulgarity, and controversy on their televisions as well as in their news stories. Or they wouldn’t be featured.

Media, too, has its own bias. It was, after all, The Toronto Star that was willing to purchase a derogatory video of Rob Ford in a tantrum for $5000 dollars. Sure, I’d pay $5000 to bring the mayor down—not—and then say it’s for the good of the people, and that it’s in the public’s best interest. Sure.

Media has been the most hungry in its frenzy to feature the failures of Rob Ford. He’s unfortunately the perfect candidate for them since he’s neither eloquent enough, nor political enough to know how to handle them correctly. He trips up on his own words. And words are power.

Yes, he’s made mistakes. He’s used illicit drugs. He uses foul language. He’s “embarrassed” the city of Toronto (or so, the media would like us all to believe). In my opinion, Toronto’s become an international highlight because of the scapegoat we pin our mayor to be.

If anything, the guilt Torontonians should feel (or at least admit to), is that while we profess the insanctimonious ways we believe Rob Ford has acted as mayor of our city, we tend to forget to look at ourselves:

  • how easy it is to trash-talk someone on the basis that we feel we have the right to do so as citizens, while judging Rob Ford on his unseemly language, himself
  • how easy it is to take sides on an issue based on biased media coverage and allegations before anything has even been proven in court
  • how mesmerized and self-righteous we feel in being able to point the finger, yell, and act rudely, in the hopes of “catching” Rob Ford in another act of disreditability
  • how wonderful we feel in incessantly attacking a man on the basis that we feel morally superior than what he’s shown to be in our estimation (because unlike him, we’re close, if not perfect ourselves)
  • our gullibility in believing everything we see, read, or hear about Rob Ford in the papers without any form or ounce of compassion
  • and that on some level, we don’t actually care about the morality of Toronto City Council, but rather watch the comings-and-goings of Rob Ford because we find his failings a wonderful scapegoat to our own, and that we also find his failings disgustingly entertaining

Mmm. Interesting.

I’m not an electoral supporter of Mayor Ford. But, I am a supporter of him as a human being.

When has it gone so wrong that we as a community lose sight of our own decorum in our hunger to judge and attack others so ruthlessly based on what we believe to be right and just in our own eyes?

The man can’t even get to his office in the morning because media crowd the front door and hound him for answers, gruelling him always, not to paint him in a good light, but to shoot him with speedy and stressful questions equivalent to bullets meant to shoot down his mayoral career, his right to privacy, respect, and dignity.

And while the Toronto Councillors try to create motions to kick him out of office, it’s a sad day when those with political agendas of their own, as an electoral body, come together to attack their leader. It isn’t the place of the electoral body to do this. Not only that, but it’s a dangerous road.

What is needed is an unbiased body to query and review the facts before them that follow legal protocol in order to judge any forms of legal and moral misconduct on behalf of the Mayor of the City of Toronto, if that be the case, as judged by a court of law. This is legally true as it is ethically true.

And should the city then run to its “Mother,” the province, to take over the proceedings in municipal council in trying to oust Mayor Rob Ford?

It’s like a bunch of quarrelling four-year-olds who stomp their feet in frustration at not being able to get what they want because one sibling has misbehaved. Ridiculous.

I congratulate Premier Wynne for staying out of this political drama. Should she interfere, it would take precedent over and beyond potential, future conflicts in municipal office. It begs the question and leaves the door wide open to the misuse of Ontario’s provincial power over the municipality—which are two very separate entities with their own forms of process.

Oh, Politics.

Dear Media,

Please leave Mayor Rob Ford alone. If you wouldn’t be so eager in covering his story, the world wouldn’t be so keen in watching. Have compassion. There are other news worthy stories out there like the brutality of Typhoon Haiyan on the people of the Philippines or the success of the latest Governor General’s Award for fiction in Canada.

 Am I disappointed that Rob Ford has been inebriated and/or has used illicit drugs in the past? Yes.

Do I approve of his vulgar use of language in the public? No.

Do I heartily agree with the constant coverage and bullying he must undergo because of his mistakes? Absolutely not.

If it’s so wonderfully easy to magnify Rob Ford’s mistakes, the same intensity in which we use our magnifying glass, should be turned and looked at, first, at ourselves.

(Oh, Rob. You should have stuck with football. I’d like give you a consolatory hug and apologize to you on behalf of the actions of my city, in the way she has attacked you incessantly on a day-to-day basis without remorse—but you know, someone might accuse me of being a “prostitute.”

Hang in there. It’ll be all over once the city implodes with unprecedented legislation, your time in electoral office runs out, or they charge you and imprison you, or kill you—which is what it feels like they want to do. Take heart, Mayor Ford. You at least got a Bobblehead.

My true advice, Mayor, is that you ignore media, deal with the authorities regarding their investigation, work on your litigation against those who have lied to incriminate you, and focus on the work you were elected to do—while you still have the time to do it.

As for the money you have saved Torontonians with your strong conviction against overspending, I personally thank you. Since, according to your crucifiers, your use of cocaine and vulgarity in public office, far outweighs the good you have done.)

***

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