By: Fabian Suárez-Amaya
The time for joking about Mayor Rob Ford is over. I’ll admit, I burst out laughing at #inadrunkenstupor when I first saw it. How could you not? It was bold. It was unexpected. It was such an outrageously simple explanation. The surprise, the utter absurdity, and the familiarity of that completely unacceptable reasoning gave it all the proper ingredients for hilarity. I was still laughing when the predictable jokes came out on Twitter – different writers delivering lists of more common things they had done #inadrunkenstupor, none of which (spoiler alert!) included smoking crack. This was on Tuesday.
Don’t worry – if you’ve posted Rob Ford jokes on Facebook, this doesn’t mean that I DON’T LIKE YOU NOW. I’ve seen enough friends posting clever witticisms, or outraged criticisms about the situation to know that this article might be taken as a holier-than-thou guilt trip. “COME ON, Fabian. Just relax.” I have enough self-awareness to recognize that I’m being a little preachy. But I’m also serious.
I’m writing this on Thursday evening, close to midnight. Today, another video was released which showed Ford threatening to kill an unnamed person and “rip his throat out.” It’s a new low, and we can all agree that Ford needs to go as mayor of Toronto.
Still, what purpose do we serve by fixedly perseverating on Ford’s decline? Are we serving the public interest? (Not that serving the public interest is necessarily the goal of journalism.) I recognize that the video is terrible, and in context, of course it will make headlines. Ford’s story is at the point where it’s grim enough that it’s no longer humourous. Worse than the jokes, which I expect are made by off-the-cuff by people who I know are compassionate, is the salivating trauma voyeurism that’s emerging. Comments made with a sneer, while we wait to see which tragic direction the story will next take.
Consider this: Ford himself is a victim. A victim absolutely of his own making. He’s an individual who is 100% responsible for his own choices. Yet, while we’ve put Ford in stocks in the centre of the town square to pelt with rotten fruit, we fail to recognize that he is still a man, a human, who has some serious substance abuse problems, who does not have family and friends providing the support. And, honesty he needs to get out of this downward spiral. His mother publicly declared that the real issue Rob Ford needed to face was his weight. What? How do you even. I can’t laugh at that.
Consider this: while Ford has dominated our headlines and social media feeds, in Canada this week the premiers of BC and Alberta signed a preparatory agreement for the Northern Gateway pipeline (that’s bad!). Quebec passed its Secular Values charter, banning public sector workers like teachers, nurses, and people who tell you how taxes work, from wearing religious symbols while working (that’s bad!). A friend mentioned to me that a third of the population of Gaza, roughly 500 000 people, has been without power for over a week (that’s bad!). All of these things combined were barely a blip on my Internet radar today.
Consider this: people tied to the video of Ford smoking crack have died. The men he was dealing with are all alleged members of a violent gang. It’s a gang that plagues a specific ethnic group, and is causing violence and death across multiple provinces. There is so much going on here that is frustrating and so much more important, I can’t really handle any more Chris Farley jokes.
I’m not supporting Rob Ford. He remains the mayor of Canada’s largest city, and as of November 7th, has no intention of stepping down. Despite his democratic mandate, he is currently not fit to govern, and needs to resign, or be removed. I do think our energy could be better used in outrage and action, rather than mockery.
I’m not looking to make people feel guilty for jokes they’ve made – how else do we deal with the absurdity of life? Still, even the Daily Show’s irreverent Jon Stewart closed by asking for us to treat this with more gravity. Stewart’s words, to a suddenly quiet audience: “Mayor Ford is a lot of fun to ridicule. But my guess is, not a lot of fun to eulogize. And that’s where this thing is headed.” I’m asking for us to move forward, and to keep grappling with the weird world around us in a more positive way.
Fabian Suárez-Amaya is not holier-than-thou. Or holier than anyone, really. He is studying Education at the University of Winnipeg.