Rob Ford is dead the way he lived, surrounded by selfies, controversy, and a family criticized for using him to seek the political limelight.
Ford, Toronto's one-term mayor, died last week at the age of 46, less than two years after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
Over the past week, the city reacted much the way polite society is expected to when remembering the life of a celebrity/politician who died young. Current Mayor John Tory and Drake's personal mayor Norm Kelly both gave lovely tributes to the man. Don Cherry told us pinkos how much he loved Rob Ford on Saturday's Coach's Corner. It was declared that Ford's body would lie in repose at City Hall on Monday and Tuesday for a public visitation before his funeral.
This plan all but guaranteed that Ford's death would result in the same kind of bizarre political spectacle that hounded the man over the last few years of his life. But even with Doug Ford's reputation of campaigning on his brother's back, I don't think anyone expected to see him taking smiling selfies with members of Ford Nation at his brother's visitation.
Yes, he's a (out-of-work) politician and yes, the public was asking for the photos, but there's a decidedly icky factor to "campaigning by casket" as the Toronto Sun's Rob Ford confidant Joe Warmington put it. (Though, it being Warmington, he was quick to turn his story into a positive spin about Doug Ford's political future.)
Following the mini-controversy, it seems that Doug Ford was somewhat chastened Tuesday and was no longer accepting selfies. An aide to Ford told a VICE photographer we couldn't take a picture of him.
Thousands were expected to attend Ford's visitation, which on Monday included his former football players, people wearing Ford Nation shirts, and a lot of people who appeared to have stumbled in from work. A number of people appeared to be taking pictures of his casket. Many told members of the media that they had personally met or talked to Ford before—that being the most common positive refrain about the former mayor in recent days: "He was a politician who actually listened to me."
Whether or not that sentiment is actually true is up for debate, but it seems certain that the legend of the Rob Ford returning your phone call and fixing the pothole on your street has become fact. Which leads into the larger question of how the city will remember Rob Ford.
While some previously critical columnists waxed poetically about the man, and other writers found poignancy in the bizarre, there were more than a few brave souls who asked Toronto to remember Rob Ford as he was. Rabble called him an "abusive man," and pointed out his long history with homophobia and sexism. Torontoist's Christopher Bird offered a searing "honest assessment" of Ford that called him the "absolute worst kind of politician" and made few distinctions between the man and the politician.
But while we'll leave it to columnists, psychologists, and historians to explain Ford's legacy, there's the more immediate aftermath to ponder. Such as: Should the City of Toronto erect a statue of Rob Ford?
Don't laugh, people are actually talking about this. (No word on if the plan includes a life-sized bobblehead.)
The inevitable Change.org petition only has 350 signees as of this writing, so it's not like there's a groundswell of support at the moment.
But you know some city councillor is going to look at Ford Nation and see a vast swath of disaffected voters and think asking for a statue might win over some hearts. (No, I am not going to get into who is going to take up the mantle of Ford Nation. OK, it's going to be Doug Ford, and he will run it into the ground. Anyways.)
It's not like statues matter all that much to your average Torontonian. (Here's a list of some current statues in the city of famous people: Winston Churchill, Sir James Whitney, Glenn Gould, King Edward VII, Jack Layton, Al Waxman.)
Lots of white dudes with more than a few problematic facts about them have statues erected in their honour. Do we really need to add another one to that list?
Ford was a politician who died too young. That doesn't mean he needs to be canonized.
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