Just when you thought the over-the-top, Jerry Springer-meets-John Waters weirdness that is Rob Ford couldn’t get any weirder, it did. Last week, amid a heartening show of symbolic support for Russia’s embattled LGBT citizens, Mayor Ford stepped into the international media glare once more — this time to announce that he would not be attending WorldPride festivities this summer and then to denounce the raising of a rainbow flag at Toronto City Hall.
And then, in a moment that has become routine, the mayor was a deer caught in the headlines: he clearly didn’t get it. He said the Olympics should be about Canada, “not sexual preference.” His brother insisted the mayor “is not homophobic.” Right, Doug — and he’s still on the wagon, too.
The social media lit up in anger about the cruel indignity the beleaguered mayor was handing our community.
I’m really sorry, but I can’t feign moral outrage at this slight. Let me see if I get this straight (pun intended): we’re supposed to be upset that the drunk-driving, crack-smoking, misogynist, racist, incompetent, abusive, pathological liar who is the mayor of Toronto doesn’t approve of our conduct and won’t be attending our party. It’s sort of like finding out Vladimir Putin won’t be attending your human rights conference or Justin Bieber won’t be moving in next door or OJ Simpson won’t be your next date. What club would want this man as a member?
Please make no mistake: this isn’t about judgment. I don’t care that the mayor likes to tie one on occasionally. After all, some of the most famous members of our tribe — Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Oscar Wilde, to name but three, have been notoriously lushy. Nor is this about being classist — even noted upper-crust snotbag Conrad Black endorsed Ford after the former Order-of-Canadian fellated the mayor on-air, in what can perhaps best be described as bore-on-boor TV.
While the word “ironic” is often misused, it fits the bill here. At the very moment cities across Canada — many of which I have in the past denounced as provincial backwaters — were hoisting rainbow flags in solidarity with people halfway across the world, Toronto’s mayor was making a stink about the one flying over his city hall. The Canadian city with the largest and most politicized queer community is the same one that is now lorded over by someone who clearly has utterly no regard for their rights or safety.
Some have suggested that raising a flag seems an empty gesture. It’s not. Symbolic speech is every bit as important as spoken speech. And while Ford continues to supply the writers at The Daily Show and Colbert Report craploads of material (this stuff “writes itself,” as they say in the comedy business), please see the many documentaries about what is happening to members of Russia’s LGBT community. They are chilling and no laughing matter. When Putin says Russia needs to be “cleansed” of homosexuals, I believe he means it, and the echoes of the Third Reich are unmistakable
Toronto is having its own Sarah Palin-Tina Fey moment. That was when one candidate (Palin) was seen as a political messiah by about 25 percent of the American populace, while another 40 percent simultaneously viewed her as an exceedingly bad joke, worthy of little more than ridicule. Ford haters point to a dirty-laundry list of his bad judgment calls; resorting to Fox-News logic, his supporters counter by citing a miraculous fiscal record that doesn’t exist.
It’s high time for an intervention. Toronto: you need a divorce. It was not so long ago that another rightwing sleazebag, then-premier Mike Harris, forced the amalgamation of what was Toronto with its surrounding townships. The move did not have popular support at the time, but it was rammed down everyone’s collective throat with that age-old rightwing logic: money will be saved. The jury is out as to whether or not it has actually saved any cash, but even if it has, I would argue the bitterness, acrimony and dysfunction haven’t been worth it. The needs and wants of people living in central Toronto are too often at odds with those of people living in the ’burbs.
There’s a solution to this mess: de-amalgamation. A number of cities that drank the amalgamation Kool-Aid have already undone it, and successfully. Torontonians should start a petition to have this simple yes-or-no question included on the ballot in the next municipal election: do you support the de-amalgamation of Toronto? I predict “Yes” would win by a landslide.
Then the city and townships can return to the borders and governance they enjoyed pre-Harris. Etobicoke can elect Ford, should it choose. And residents of the City Formerly Known as Toronto can celebrate as they reach that elusive moment, when they elect a sane, responsible, reasonable human being as their mayor.