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Rob Ford and the Politics of Division

Rob Ford and the Politics of Division

The fiasco and folderol that is Rob Ford’s political life have been making headlines around the world much to the chagrin of many a Toronto citizen. Although he was never one to be associated with the word grace, his tumble from what passes for it has been breathtaking in its magnitude and stealth. For some it has been a long-awaited inevitable, for others a tragedy of personal failing that has been blamed on everything but its architect. For all of his foibles, missteps and miscalculations, Rob Ford is a master at division.

He is also a study in dichotomies: he sits in the city’s highest office, yet refers to his downtown constituents as ‘elites’. He is a progeny of privilege who masquerades as a folksy everyman. He is chief magistrate whose job it is to uphold the word of law who has thumbed his nose at it and acted in a lawless manner times too numerous to count. He is manifest all that is the failing attributes of our culture: boorish, ill-mannered, self-serving, and gluttonous in his destructive consumptions. He is drowning in the gravy he accuses others of wasting.

We are saddled with the politics of Us vs. Them that is bleeding into our culture.

hi-ford-billboard-852-jpgRob Ford is the culmination and personification of what has happened to politics. He bullies, divides, creates hostility between segments of the population based on geography and income. He is the symptom of a much bigger problem. He is the creation of the politics of divisiveness that has been boiling for several decades. When once we had leaders who, for the most part, could be consensus builders, leaders who could unite a city or a country, we are saddled with the politics of Us vs. Them that is bleeding into our culture.

With spectacular hubris, theses ‘leaders’ talk out of both sides of their face: promising to save and respect the “taxpayers’ money” (as if that’s all that democracy and society is built on) while simultaneously playing a shell game with that same money to line their pockets. One need look no further than our Senate and the PMO to watch the shells, shekels and excuses fly like scores of hundred dollar bills in the wind. Bringing it back home, the cost of investigating our mayor must be worth boatloads of gravy.

Yet we are still divided. Some look at Ford as a bloated blight of bigotry who benefits from the privilege of his office, his family and his skin colour. Others see him as a beleaguered hero who is the victim of a media-fuelled vendetta, the target of a witch hunt by the “liberal left”. The Accusers versus the Apologists. The Downtowners versus the Suburbanites. The Cyclists versus the Motorists. The Right versus the Left. Everyone is to blame for the man’s actions except the man himself.

It could be argued that the greatest political achievement of the new millennium is the politics of division.

FORD PROTEST 20130601The fact is, the blame can be laid at the feet of us all. Rob Ford is not the mayor of this city because of a political coup or a military action, he was elected. He was voted into office by people who likely heard and responded to the soundbites that politics has been reduced to. Even in his darkest public moments, Ford falls on his old mantra of “doing what I was elected to do: save the taxpayers’ money.” That sentiment is parroted by his loyal Ford Nation without any understanding of how—or if—that money has actually been saved. It sounds good. It validates the vote. Truth be damned.

It could be argued that the greatest political achievement of the new millennium is the politics of division. We live in cities, provinces, territories, and cultures split up and pitted against one another. Sure, we may be Canadians, but we are a population slavishly following opposing ideologies that are leading us down a dangerous road. We have lost sight of the long term vision for the short term “what’s in it for me” pseudo-solution. And who wins? The people who have successfully busied us with pointing fingers at each other while they have their fingers in the pie. Divide. Distract. Then dig in and help yourself. Repeat.

As Abraham Lincoln famously said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Our house is starting to shake on its foundation. The only way to steady it is to put aside political pettiness and work together as much as we can; to get past the politics of division; to listen to more than the soundbites and become an informed electorate. It is our responsibility and our privilege. We have to remember that our democracy and citizenry is far more than just dollars and cents. Otherwise we may find ourselves sitting in a pile of rubble a few decades down the road, with Rob Ford and his ilk a bizarre memory of the good old days.

AndyAndrew Vail’s writing career began in Halifax when he was but a child. In Grade 4, he wrote and produced his own series of comic books entitled “Freaky The Frog”, the on-going tale of a little misfit frog and his pals of the pond. Marvel Comics never came knocking but Andrew knew he loved to create and tell stories. Since then, Andrew has worked in advertising, PR and publicity; has interviewed politicians, rock stars and very interesting yet not-so-famous movers and shakers. He has published articles in a variety of local and national magazines and websites.

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