As the Rob Ford freak show mayoralty has reached unimaginably surreal heights of late, I wonder, is there anything positive that can be found in the nadir of municipal politics that we’re in? Can someone like me, whose love for Toronto is truly unconditional, somehow sift through the debris of our civic morale to find even a small trace of figurative fool’s gold?
Ford’s scandal marathon has made Toronto politics a ubiquitous topic that often eclipses all else. I just realized that I haven’t written a post here, on my journal of Toronto thoughts, since the summer of 2012! My terrible lapse in productivity can be at least partly attributed to how busy I am now in graphic design school, though Ford’s antics have me writing this until 4 a.m. When I check my Twitter feed lately, which consists almost completely of local, Toronto-obsessed voices, it’s amazing to see the few famous Americans that I follow tweeting about Ford along with everyone else.
This past Tuesday, one of my graphic design teachers finally raised the topic of Ford in a class. She said it’s so depressing to hear that our mayor is partaking in such activities, which began a brief municipal dialogue with students. Later, as we were supposed to be working on group projects, I couldn’t concentrate because Ford was about to hold a press conference (which would have finally marked Ford’s resignation if he was a decent human being). As a group, we perfunctorily worked on our assignment between snippets of Ford discussion. At one point I was even arguing about bike lanes with a guy I had never spoken to (which, due to my shyness, is usually impossible).
Tonight, as Pamela and I walked home from our friends’ apartment just past 2 a.m., having had a night that, despite our intention to watch X-Files episodes, mostly consisted of us talking about Ford news and watching the new Fifth Estate feature on him, a woman (who was clearly in a drunken stupor) in the passenger seat of a passing car screamed at us, “Hey! I was with Rob Ford tonight. We had sexual relations. I sucked his albino ----. Have a good night!”
Can the fact that newspapers all over the world and giant American television shows are discussing Ford almost as much as we locals are be a good thing for Toronto? Beyond the obvious shame of being discussed on the world stage only for having a mayor that’s unprecedentedly ridiculous, could it also be beneficial to be talked about nonetheless, regardless of the reason? Maybe an essential ingredient missing in Toronto’s reputation—or lack thereof, since it is famously unappreciated and disproportionately inconspicuous in our North American imaginations—is simply a freakish incident such as this one that propels it into a bizarre new light, from which it will hopefully emerge healed from the Ford years and slightly more a part of our psychological urban landscape. When the topic of the mayor even arises in passing drunken harassment, maybe we’ve reached a point where the civic conversation is so broad and socially cohesive that the mayor’s scandals have done some good. Maybe having stories to tell about Toronto is just what the world needs.