You may know the name. You may remember he was Toronto’s mayor from 2010 to 2014. You may also recognize it from the multitudes of headlines that colloquially condemned his drug use.
Why? Because Rob Ford was bad.
Bold lettering and snappy alliterations appeared next to photos of his big, red, grinning face in newspapers; the Toronto Star broke the first story of a DUI arrest, threatening his mayoral campaign in the city of its namesake.
Fast forward a few years, and jokes about Toronto’s mayor smoking crack became a punchline on every late night talk show worth watching. Why? Because Toronto’s mayor got caught smoking crack, THAT’S WHY! And, really, what would any first-world, forward-thinking, open-minded civilization do in that kind of situation? There’s no place for compassion in politics! Concern? Out of the question! A little bender here, a drunken outburst there, disturbing episodes one after the other…certainly there couldn’t be anything pathological here to consider.
Disregard the fact that it takes a very ill individual to continually get screwed up and screw up, especially in the public eye. I guess some little boys dream of taking office one day just to systematically burn it down one humiliating event at a time, embarrassing their families and cities in the process.
The world hated Rob Ford. Some would chirp that it was because of his politics, or his trademark misogyny. But really, his crack pipe broke that camel’s back. As an addict in the eye of the righteous voter, Toronto’s mayor wasn’t good for much more than a mention on Jay Leno. “God’s gift to comedy,” Leno said.
Rob Ford died this week.
Grief struck the nation. Shock shook the headlines.
Our condolences to the family.
With sincere regrets,
Why? Because Rob Ford was sick.
Rob Ford had cancer, and with his family by his side, after undergoing chemo unsuccessfully, Rob Ford lost his ongoing battle. It’s a tragedy. How heartbreaking it is when a public figure, a former mayor, leaves this world so young, succumbing to a fatal disease.
People have been leaving flowers around the city for Rob Ford. The news channels have created montages set to music. “Rob Ford will be remembered for his personal relationship with the city,” reads one headline. “Rob Ford gave his all to Toronto,” reads another. Toronto’s City Hall will open its doors on Easter Monday for a visitation of his casket. City Hall is never open on Easter Monday. An exception will be made for the well known public figure.
The world loved Rob Ford. In light of his unconventional attitudes and unusual behavior, he was actually a pretty fun guy! A man who made people care about Toronto.
Good Friday eulogy to be delivered by Jay Leno.
Rob Ford died this week.
And the line in the sand has been redefined. Stigma has never been so potent. Individuals with addiction, depression, and anxiety are still made to feel as if it’s a choice, and that we’ve made a poor one. We still feel the judgement of our peers and employers, parents and partners. We are told we are careless, reckless, and unfit for our place in this world, whether that place is in office or in line at the unemployment office. It’s official: we are born normal and behave wrong. Why won’t we just choose to be better? Why must we make those who love us cry? In spite of the tears, we are not sick people, we are “God’s gift to comedy”.
When an addict dies, a resounding sigh can be heard. They did it to themselves, they say. They’re in a better place now. When a man dies of cancer, or another disease we can see on a scan or in a blood test, we heave sobs because we’ve been robbed. The world has been robbed! Yet the real Rob died just as much an addict as he did a cancer patient. How lucky he is to have had an oncologist gently close his chart as he ascended up to heaven, rather than a cop zip up a bag as he tumbled down to hell.
No matter which Rob we bury next week — chaotic, sad substance-abusing Rob or cancer-stricken victim Rob — a sick man will be buried. A body will be placed in the earth, and become one again with everything and nothing.
Rob Ford died, and it’s all very tragic indeed.
About Carli Stephens-Rothman
With a BA in Journalism from Ryerson University, Carli has been writing professionally for seven years. Today she can admit that six of those were mostly a blur. Reaching a year clean and sober in December of 2015 -- after privately (and then not so privately) battling addiction for much of her twenties -- Carli has refocused her personal and professional lives in order to nurture a new path. From her home on Vancouver Island, she continues to freelance for a number of Toronto-based publications, including The Toronto Star and SheDoesTheCity, while setting out upon a new academic journey in the field of addictions and mental health. When not writing or studying, or exploring the brilliant world of recovery, she teaches yoga with a focus on healing and confidence-building.