A lot happened last week. The federal government introduced new legislation to subvert free elections and guarantee Conservative majorities for years to come, Jim Flaherty announced tough new regulations against standard Conservative Party practices, and the 2014 Winter Olympic Games began in Sochi, Russia. In the end, however, these events were merely sideshows. What made the big headlines? Rob Ford publicly complained about a rainbow flag flying in front of Toronto City Hall.
The rainbow flag went up in front of Toronto City Hall as part of a coordinated effort by several Canadian municipalities to show support for LGBTQ rights during the Sochi Olympics. Sochi is perhaps the first Olympic Games to be more famous for its stance on LGBTQ rights than for anything else. But don’t let that distract you from Toronto’s Mayor…he’s the real story here.
Rainbow Robbie made a clear case against the rainbow flag and the Olympic protest: “This is about being patriotic to your country. This is not about someone’s sexual preference. No I do not agree with putting up the rainbow flag.” In light of the Mayor’s previous behaviour, some suggest he is homophobic. Balderdash! He can’t be homophobic because he has a gay friend. Well, it might be more correct to say Rob had a gay friend, given that Sue-Ann Levy recently gave up on him, but to debate this point would be to focus too much on the problem. Ford had no time for the problem, so he proposed a solution. “We should put our Canadian flag up. I put my Canadian flag up in the window,” he said. Torontonians had to be sympathetic to the Mayor’s condition.
For several years they have suffered through the shame of being associated with a drunk, high, and uncoordinated man, all because he lured them in with a promise to “stop the gravy train.” How has that worked out? The Mayor is now an international joke: the subject of late night comedians’ mockery, and a source of negative press around the world. When confronted by other Canadians, by Americans, or by international acquaintances, the downtown Torontonian – this author included – must explain that no, Ford does not represent the entire city.
So yes, Torontonians are sympathetic. We know what it’s like for Rob Ford to see that rainbow flag waving outside city hall. We know the feeling of being associated with a public symbol that violates your personal identity. The only difference is the origin of that violation. For Ford, it is the idea that love does not exist solely between a cisgender, heterosexual male and a cisgender heterosexual female. For us, it is the idea that when people hear “Toronto”, this homophobic lunatic is the first thing that comes to mind. We are bothered by the cruel joke that our city has become.
To remedy the situation, we can take a page out of Ford’s book. Ford hangs a Canadian flag in his window so that he can shelter himself from the homophilia that lurks outside. He creates his own world in which he feels safe and secure. Fair enough. To achieve the same effect, the rest of Toronto can set their computer clocks back to 2009. We can start displaying our David Miller memorabilia…or start reposting our Smitherman and Pantalone signs. In all honesty, many of us would even be willing to endorse Mel Lastman. We’ve had our share of goofs, but nooooobody has done quite as much damage as Rainbow Rob Ford.