Festival of Favouritism

Apparently it was time for “Ford Fest” this weekend: and no, it is not a celebration of an automobile company. Once again, it’s a chance for our mayor, Rob Ford, to wine and dine his supporters. I read Mr. Micallef’s description of the BBQ in the link above, and could not help but think of how absurd his little “journey” was, exploring a political BBQ and expecting anything other than what he found. It sounds like an event that would fit better in Texas than here in Toronto. Our mayor has run on being a “regular guy”, but that isn’t difficult. I want someone to lead this city who is more than just “regular”. Micallef’s statement is both misleading and dangerous: “a journey into Rob Ford’s backyard is no trip into the heart of darkness, but rather into the middle of Canada where the meat never stops cooking and the bar is open.

I lived in central Arkansas for eight years, and knew a number of those involved in politics: on both Republican and Democrat sides. I could not vote myself, being Canadian, but that did not stop me from supporting parties. (Let me tell you: it is a myth that your vote is the most significant thing that you can do/have in politics. A vote is important, but is one of many things you can do: and a person’s vote can be influenced by a surprising number of things.) Most of those who I managed at work were supporters of George W. Bush and Mike Huckabee. They were not evil, they loved to laugh, they knew how to throw a damn good party. Like momma Ford in the link above, most of them had expansive homes that were handed down for generations (no wonder they want to get rid of the inheritance tax) and were impressive to visitors (since, like momma Ford, they actually had no neighbours). We agreed on most small-talk. We enjoyed working together. But they did not understand why they should support “do-nothings” who “refused” to work in our “welfare state”. Most of them could not understand why I would want to leave Arkansas after they passed the state Marriage Amendment, permanently barring same-sex marriage from inclusion in the state’s operations.

Seriously. They did not understand. They didn’t understand the gay thing to begin with (or the poor thing), but that wasn’t it. One man actually asked me: “You haven’t been able to get married before… why is it such a big deal now?” But they completely missed the point of equality. Oh, the words were there, but any kind of practical application was lost in translation. For them, it was sufficient to be “equal” when we entered the universe and started competing in the “fair” capitalist marketplace. Any inequality after that was fully deserved. And unfortunately, those kinds of discussions don’t come up at BBQs or at “Festivals”. (Or at least it seems that Mr. Micallef avoided them.) Yet those are the differences between the people I want running the city and our current mayor. And until these are pointed out, Mr. Ford will continue to live under the the camouflage of the “regular guy” and make it work for him: “Be the everyman. George W. Bush won his elections in part because he was perceived as the more likable candidate. He did this by being down-to-earth and appearing to be an average guy.” (eHow, How to Win an Election, 2011)

I was emailing one of my teachers from high school just this last week. I remember one of her comments very well. “Remember I am all for women’s rights and everyone’s rights”. Those ideals were instilled in me from early on. That is the perspective that we seem to be forgetting these days: and it’s exactly what politicians like the Fords and the Bushes count on. Mr. Ford stands for “taxpayers rights”: which are essentially the right of every person to horde his or her power and to involve themselves as little as possible in public infrastructure: like libraries, or parks, or police. It means that those without power, for whatever reason, have nothing to horde. It’s equality for those who can afford it.

Yes, “the meat never stops cooking and the bar is open”: one day a year, and to those Mr. Ford wants to impress (and apparently succeeded). That is not what I would call “the middle of Canada” (unless he means Baker Laker, Nunavut, though that still seems even further off). Mr. Micallef’s perception of Canadian demographics, and the split between rich and poor, needs to be updated. But again: I want neither a grill-master nor a bar-tender for my mayor. That’s not the kind of cultural event I want to dominate Toronto.

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