If you are interested in reading the latest in the Rob Ford saga, this entry is not for you. I will not say much about him, but will rather explore the way I have grappled with this debacle. There has been much buzz and chatter about Ford in the last two years. That has increased exponentially in the past three weeks. He has appeared in almost every major network in North America due to his misconduct. One thing is certain: Rob Ford is not perfect. He is far from it.
For me, the lowest point in this fiasco is our attack on his human dignity. We have turned from mere spectators to active members in Ford’s downfall. Ford has not helped himself at all with all his shenanigans. When this mess started, we did not know how to respond to his misconduct, or as Andrew Coyne calls it, “Ford’s contempt for social norms.” Ford’s lack of constraint led to our own. One joke about his weight led to another about his drug use. We invaded his privacy, and harassed him until he felt threatened. We punched the man when he was down. Before we knew it, we started to act like bullies.
Right about now, some of you might be thinking: “Wait a minute, I am no bully. The guy deserves this. Haven’t you seen the way he acts? You don’t think the guy lacks character?” Well, yes. Ford lacks character and self-control. I have paid close attention to his actions. Sometimes, I paid attention too closely. Like many others, I watched the videos and followed the buzz online. While I felt disgusted with Ford’s behaviour, I ignored my own. I turned into a bully.
The saddest thing is that I constantly speak out against bullying. I talk to young people about tolerance, kindness, and forgiveness. But I forgot to walk my talk. I rationalized my actions, and forgot to love Rob Ford. Let's face it, folks: this is our Christian vocation. We are not called to like everyone, but we are called to love everyone. We are called to promote and defend the dignity of each human being. That’s what the culture of life is all about.
Prayer and self-examination helps us to realize that Ford is not the only problem. We are. Ford has serious problems he has to deal with, and City Council has a duty to take him to task in order to manage the city effectively. But the biggest problem is our obsession with Ford and other misbehaving celebrities (think Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, and Miley Cyrus). Our obsession for public misbehaviour speaks of our need for a reality check.
This is the point where you might feel the urge to stop reading and forget about this entry: “Who the heck do you think you are to preach to me? I don’t need a reality check.” Maybe you don’t, but many of us do. I certainly need it. As we participate in this craze, we actually encourage and validate the dysfunctional behaviour. Rob Ford needs to stop his destructive behaviour, but so do we.
There is another problem with our behaviour: gossip. The way we have dealt with Ford’s actions has led us to babble about his life. In that process, we have trivialized his humanity. As Pope Francis said about gossiping: “Those who live judging their neighbour, speaking ill of their neighbour, are hypocrites, because they lack the strength and the courage to look to their own shortcomings.” We need to stop looking at the speck of sawdust in our brother's eye and pay attention to the plank in our own eyes.
I am not exactly sure what is the best way to help Rob Ford. But I know we need to rethink the way we care for those we struggle to love. We need a community that keeps us accountable and helps us to love those who upset us. As we struggle to love those who are psychologically, spiritually and emotionally poor, we learn to find God, even in our own human misery. As we get in touch with that misery, we learn to transcend our tendencies to put others down. As we recognize that we are all loved and forgiven sinners, we learn to care for each other's woundedness; we discover how to heal a broken world.