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How Rob Ford Taught My Kids Integrity

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Integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

In my house, integrity is a big deal. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about cheating on a test, treating a girl with respect, stealing, or just acting with a strong compass of right and wrong.

It's been hard to raise kids with morality and integrity these days. There's a lot of pressure to look away, to do what's good for the almighty me. Living life with a lack of integrity is so much easier. It's hard to do the right thing, you know.

We live in a world where people do whatever it takes to get ahead. Where the big guy steps on the little guy. Where movies like Will Ferrell's The Campaign both spoof and glorify shady political machinations, and where we stand on the sidelines and watch the name calling, bullying, and nasty talk that traditionally accompanies any type of competitive environment.

Our world is not equitable -- never has been, and most likely never will be. The good guy often doesn't get ahead. I know that sounds pessimistic, but it's true. We'd like to naively tell our babies that it isn't so. It's hard to explain to your child that they may not get what they want because they didn't stomp on someone else to get there. Last year my son wasn't picked for student council because one teacher took it upon herself to choose the group according to some secret formula (her favorites), and he didn't measure up. I had to shrug my shoulders and inadequately explain abuse of power.

Once in a while, though, it's refreshing for us to have an example of integrity, and of those stepping over the line getting called out for it. So, I say thanks to Toronto's erswhile mayor, Rob Ford, for providing me with some concrete examples of how not to act.

Today, in a groundbreaking decision, a judge ruled that Ford was guilty of violation of conflict of interest laws, and ordered him removed from office. As Clayton Ruby, lawyer for the citizen who brought the complaint forth said: "Today's decision shows that when you break the rules, there's a price to pay."

I love that. He also said that it is tragic that the elected mayor of a great city should bring himself to this and I use that language advisedly -- Rob Ford did this to Rob Ford. It could so easily have been avoided. It could have been avoided if Rob Ford had used a bit of common sense and if he had played by the rules.

Played by the rules. Used integrity. Been honest. Things he should, as mayor of the largest city in Canada, as a role model to the very children he was supporting with his fundraising, have demonstrated.

Did Ford recognize his error? Nope. He blamed the ruling and his removal from office on left-wing politics. The left wing wants me out of here and they'll do anything in their power.

Integrity? Honesty? Owning up to one's mistakes? None of that evident here. In fact, Ford's reactions strongly reminds me of my teenagers' immediate responses when confronted by their misdemeanors.

What? It wasn't me. I didn't do it. That guy told me to.

Mayor Ford's time in office has been riddled with controversy. In fact, critics have called him a "Useful Idiot" whose usefulness has obviously run it's course, unless you need him for a case study in the Rulebook for Bad Behaviour.

Me? I choose to take something positive out of the experience of having a mayor who likes to read while he drives, engages in public drunkenness, and who thinks this whole mayoring thing is one big keg party.

I choose to hold Mr. Ford up to my children as an example of someone who got what they were asking for. Because he is someone who tried to play the game on their own rules and eventually broke one too many.

My kids need to see this. They need to see that people don't always get away with it. They need to see, instead of me just telling them, that all of their efforts to be ethical will eventually pay off.

Mayor Ford offers what I'd like to call a 'Negative Example':

  • How not to act when you're entrusted with responsibility
  • How not to abuse power
  • Why you shouldn't take a job that you cannot do
  • How not to accept responsibility for your actions
  • How to excuse instead of apologize.
  • How you shouldn't take consequences with your head held high
  • How you should just keep making the same mistakes over and over.

I should actually thank Rob Ford for doing me this favour. He's given me fodder for at least a month's worth of parenting lectures.

What did you learn from his time in office?

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