Like most Canadians, I’ve been mesmerized by the ongoing spectacle of Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford and his adventures in the underworld of gangs, drugs, thugs, and booze.
Hey, I get my picture taken with a lot of people #inadrunkenstupor.
Last spring, when Gawker and the Toronto Star reported that Ford had been caught on video smoking crack in a trap house (my drug lingo is expanding daily, thanks to this debacle) with a bunch of gang-bangers, Ford was emphatic in his denials.
Nope, no such tape existed. And nope, he wasn’t addicted to crack, and didn’t smoke it. Absolutely not, no way, no how.
Let’s skim past the intervening months—the revelations about a possible murder linked to the video, the extortion attempts, the various shady characters unearthed by the ongoing media and police investigation, the June police raids that took down a generous chunk of the Etobicoke gang that Ford had been hanging with—and skip to last week, when Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair revealed that the cops had in fact retrieved the damning video (plus another one, contents as yet unknown).
(Photo: Chris Young for the Globe & Mail)
And now, the Ford who was all bluster and denial last spring suddenly cannot shut up about it.
He’s used the radio talk show he and his brother host to “apologize” to the good people of Toronto (though he didn’t specify for what). On Tuesday, he admitted that he might have used crack. Oh wait, no, he did. He thinks. Once. In a drunken stupor.
Because of course he did.
It’s an old, familiar pattern, isn’t it? Deny the obvious, pretend you’re the one who’s right and everyone else is “out to get you” or just plain out to lunch. Bully, bluster, and always deny, deny, deny. And then, if you’re forced to apologize, make it sound like it wasn’t your fault.
One one level, as I watch this grotesque story unfold, it’s like I’m watching the story of our own alcoholic family.
“We don’t drink too much.” “We’re totally in control at all times.” “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
We saw the evidence. We watched as our parents embarrassed themselves—and humiliated us—in public, over and over again. It never got better—it was a slow, tortuous path to self-destruction.
And when the evidence got too overwhelming to deny, then came the excuses and the self-pity: we were bad kids. We made them do it. They were working too hard, they needed a break. Who did it hurt if they had a little fun from time to time? It wasn’t their fault. Why were we hounding them?
(Ford’s version: the journalists are persecuting me. The left-wing intellectual elites are persecuting me. The cops are persecuting me. It’s all part of an evil smear campaign. I only want what’s best for this city, so everyone should just shut up and let me do my job. Even if I’m cranked up or hammered a great deal of the time. Whatever—I’m the mayor, so suck it.)
Besides, our parents were fond of reminding us, we had a roof over our heads and food on the table.
Just like the people of Toronto have (allegedly) a mayor who’s saving the city money. (A claim that’s demonstrably untrue, but it’s part of his shtick.)
As kids, we were told we had no right to complain, so we should just shut up and let them get on with running the place the way they saw fit.
And if that happened to involve getting piss-drunk and passing out, well, tough beans. We had no idea how lucky we were.
Just as our parents forfeited all moral authority over us by their actions, Rob Ford has kissed goodbye his authority to credibly lead his city, by revealing himself to be a drunkard, a liar, a guy who routinely consorts with criminals, a man who cannot take responsibility for his own actions to save his soul. What is there to do but laugh?
When we were kids, eventually we realized that our only defense against our parents’ lunacy was to turn them into jokes. You and I started making fun of the horror, because we were powerless to do anything about it. They were our parents, and we were stuck with them.
Similarly, Rob Ford will be mayor until he steps down, or goes to prison.
On Tuesday, after the “drunken stupor” admission, Twitter exploded with the hashtag #inadrunkenstupor.
Because as long as Rob Ford refuses to recuse himself as mayor, there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it, except mock and deride. And for the time being, it seems he’s determined to stick around. He’s issued some crocodile-tear-laden apologies (“I’m sincerely, sincerely, sincerely sorry”), followed by a declaration that he plans to run for mayor in the next election, and it’ll be “a bloodbath.”
Sure, this is coffee. I need it to shober up, man.
How will all this play out? It’s anyone’s guess, though I can make a few predictions. Ford hasn’t admitted he’s an addict, so he’s unlikely to get help of any kind. His lifestyle choices have already done a number on his brain; pretty soon they’ll start to impair him physically, if they haven’t already.
By choosing the path of denial, rage, blame, and self-pity, our parents doomed themselves to early graves. Booze took them both, and it wasn’t a quick or easy exit.
How many times did Dad call to tell me, “They had to resuscitate your mother again”? Bringing her back from the verge of death over and over, and all it did was convince her that she was immortal. Until that final, months-long binge that turned a 68-year-old woman into an unrecognizable wreck, and then killed her.
And Dad—how many months did he spend in hospital from alcohol-induced accidents, only to kick right back into high gear as soon as he got home?
I don’t wish the same on Ford, but I won’t be at all surprised, in a few years, to hear that he’s finally succumbed to his addictions. He’s survived so far, and maybe that’s deluded him into believing he can do anything, survive anything.
And yeah, he’ll probably survive a while longer. And then, unless he gets help, he’ll succumb.
But not before he’s inflicted a boatload of damage on his family, his friends, and the city he claims to love. Because when you’re an addict, that’s just how you roll.