I understand that this might not be a popular opinion to express, but I really do think that we should feel bad about how we treated Rob Ford. The news that Rob Ford, family beside him, is undergoing experimental treatment in the hopes of shrinking two tumors on his bladder has me thinking back to the media and public's treatment of him during his brief time as Mayor of Toronto.
Before we begin, I did not vote for Rob Ford and can't fathom how anyone possibly did. He voted in favour of cutting valuable social services, and generally set about to make Toronto a worse place to live for those that need social assistance. That's bad, that's bad behavior for any person in my opinion, let alone the Mayor of Toronto. I'm just not sure that our actions towards Ford didn't make things worse, and wasn't any less despicable.
We laughed at him; we treated him as a non-human. We never gave any thought towards how he became the person that he did, how he developed the beliefs that he has, or what we as a society can learn from his story.
When Rob Ford was caught on camera allegedly smoking crack some people were outraged that the Mayor of Toronto was doing hard drugs, but a lot of people just laughed. Is it possible that a more suitable reaction would have been sympathy? Possibly concern for a human that was spiraling out of control?
If it had been your friend or family member demonstrating the same behaviour your first reaction would be to get them help, but our first reaction towards Ford was to want him to lose his job, blackball him from society, and then we laughed some more.
We didn't have sympathy; we didn't have concern because we had "other-ized" him, to borrow a phrase from our friendly millennial members of society. We otherized him because we decided he was a bad person, and bad people aren't worthy of our sympathy or concern.
If it had been your friend or family member demonstrating the same behaviour your first reaction would be to get them help, but our first reaction towards Ford was to want him to lose his job, black-ball him from society, and then we laughed some more.
When expressing this opinion verbally, usually after several drinks, the most common response I get is: "But Ian, look at the stuff he did, he's a bad mayor, he's a bad person!"
OK, sure, but how did he become that way?
To a certain extent none of us really choose our opinions or world-view; they come to us by way of our upbringing, events in our life, and our sense of identity and place in the world.
A person "chooses" to be a certain way politically only as much as someone "chooses" what makes them laugh, what makes them angry and what makes them smile.
To be perfectly honest I'm starting to believe that the cliques we belonged to in high school often have more of an impact on our political leanings than an actual objective evaluation of the issues ever do.
Buddhists say that to avoid being angry at those who wronged you or people you care about to picture that person as a baby, a vulnerable child who needs to be protected and nurtured. The idea being that if we view each person as a sentient being on a journey, we better understand that we are shaped by the world around us and to a certain extent none of us are truly in control of who we become or what we believe.
Rob Ford is just like any of us; he was a baby born into (or out from) this planet, and like any of us he has been given no clear direction as to what this place is and what we are supposed to do during our time here. He's not an "other", he is just like us.
Perhaps the universe is sending us a message with the Rob Ford story: Don't hate those that disagree with you, or do things you see as wrong. Understand how they came to view the world in the way they do and do your best to help them see the world how you do.
Society does not progress by blackballing those who we disagree with, doing so only further entrenches us into our different camps; not wanting to interact, work together, or find solutions to our differences. When we otherize anyone, we just end up into different factions that choose not to understand each other.
Next time a Rob Ford pops up in society, let's not laugh, let's not "otherize", let's sympathize and not laugh when they fall, and let's work to determine how they got to be like they are and how we can work together to improve this place for all of us.
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