When I see the news stories of Rob Ford, I’m struck, as we all are, by the similarities between our mayor and quite a few Chris Farley characters from Saturday Night Live. The over-arching attitude toward his folly is that he’s a buffoon. He’s a ridiculously silly man who is just one of the boys, gone wrong. We dismiss any damage he might do as negligible. It will affect how people see Toronto. It has made a joke of our city. Still, what he does on his own time…
Nope. What he does on his own time matters, and here’s why:
What he does on his own time is become deeply involved with a questionable group of potential (charged, not convicted) drug dealers. These potential drug dealers live in an area called Dixon Road, an area peopled largely by immigrants from Somalia. I know Dixon Road. I grew up in Rexdale. I went to Kipling Collegiate Institute (one of a few Rexdale schools I attended.) I did a co-op placement at Dixon Grove Junior Middle School, working with kids in Grade 4, and in the ESL program. I had friends and students who were born in Somalia and came to Canada with their families. They came with hope, but also with damage.
You see, Somalia is a country that knows tragedy. By the time the Europeans finished fighting over it in 1960 (I’m looking at you, Britain, France and Italy) Somalia was already very deeply divided. Political in-fighting, war and drought meant that peace was a dream that seemed unattainable. Because of its location, someone always wanted Somalia. The Russians, the Egyptians, the Kenyans, there was always a battle to be fought. I’m not going to try to understand the why of these conflicts in the context of this blog. I don’t care, in this case, who was right. I care that people – kids, families, workers – they lived with war and death and anger like we live with transit problems and Sriracha shortages.
So they left. They left a home they loved for a chance at something better in Canada. Many of them came here to Toronto and they settled on Dixon Road.
It was to this area that Mayor Rob Ford took his bad habits. He came and spent time there. He hung around with people. He integrated himself into the community. He, admittedly, did drugs there.
And here’s the tragedy – he showed them that, like in the home they loved and left, politics and crime are connected. Somalia was recently given a rating of 8/100 for the level of corruption in their government by organization Transparency International. Out of 176 rated nations, they came 174th. This is a place that the UN Peacekeepers left, calling the mission a failure. This is a place where drugs and government are bedfellows of the worst, most destructive kind.
By taking his misbehavior to a place like Dixon Road, Mayor Ford damages that neighbourhood. By putting his money into the drug culture there, he supports the most pernicious and hateful behaviors people engage in. He funds a culture that kills, that steals futures and that ruins families. He shows the kids growing up there that the land they’ve come to is just as corrupt and untrustworthy as the one they left.
The real tragedy here isn’t one sad man who has a problem (though he does.) The real tragedy is a man in a position of power who proves, once again, that power corrupts.