It’s generally considered in poor taste to speak ill of the dead, especially in the immediate aftermath of their passing away. But this tradition, when applied to public figures, has a pernicious effect. It allows for that person’s defenders and apologists to praise the person in the highest possible terms, while their opponents can only grit their teeth and mouth anodyne platitudes about sympathy for the recently deceased’s family.
So, for instance, today we see folks dwelling on Rob Ford’s dedication to the high school football team that he coached, his willingness to take calls at all hours from his constituents, and (because it sells papers) the lurid addiction scandal that dogged the second half of his tenure as Toronto’s mayor. What’s missing from this sanitized version of Ford’s career is his well-established record as an abusive bully, a political opportunist who used the poor as props while undercutting city support for them, a misogynistic racist bigot, and indeed a violent person.
To be clear, my heart goes out to Rob Ford’s family today – particularly his poor children. I appreciate that the Ford family is suffering right now, and I understand why many feel that it’s crass to publish a piece with a headline like this one has.
But while in death he is provoking grief in those who were close to him, in life Rob Ford was the direct cause of a lot of pain and suffering in his role as a public official. And it is unacceptable that we allow the pain of Ford’s family to eclipse the pain of Ford’s victims as we recount his legacy and assess his life. Continue Reading