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Sorry Rob, the gay pride parade is part of the job

Andrew Potter on the ritual humiliations that come with being a politician


 
Sorry Rob, it’s just part of the job

Tory Zimmerman/TORONTO STAR

From kissing babies to sitting through interminable public ceremonies, the cost of being a politician in a democracy is that you have to submit to a handful of ritual humiliations simply because the people expect it. The prime minister of Canada has to pretend to like hockey. The American president has to attend church and otherwise act like he believes in God. Even Kim Jong Il has to feign interest in mundane things. As for the mayor of Toronto, he has to march in the annual Pride parade that celebrates the diversity of human sexuality in the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

The current holder of that office, Rob Ford, does not agree. He has made it clear that he has no intention of attending the annual parade, which often takes place over the July 1 long weekend. And despite being strongly encouraged to change his mind by virtually every newspaper columnist and editorialist in the land, Ford is digging in. Yet oddly enough, it is the mayor’s own bizarre recalcitrance that forms the strongest argument for why he needs to be there.

There are actually a number of reasonable arguments to be made in support of Rob Ford’s position. To begin with, suppose we take at face value his claim that it’s nothing more than a scheduling problem, that the Pride parade conflicts with a decades-old Ford family tradition of spending the weekend at the cottage in Huntsville, Ont. To the extent to which Pride is about engendering respect for love in all its plenitude, a magnanimous LGBT community should be willing to grant him his traditional hetero-normative family time.

Besides, Toronto is no longer the city it was in 1981, when Toronto police raided four gay bathhouses and arrested over 300 men. Pride evolved out of the mass protests that were a direct political response to those raids, aimed at defending the rights of the city’s gay community. Today, it’s a 10-day festival of arts and culture, attracting corporate sponsors that include TD Bank, Budweiser, Pizza Pizza, and CTV. Whatever stigma there ever was in a corporation being associated with the LGBT community, it is fading fast. We might be tempted to go even further, and argue that the day the mayor no longer needs to attend Pride will mark the utopian end point of that trajectory—the normalization, even banalization, of the lifestyle of what was once a persecuted and marginalized community.

Finally, a lot of the pressure on Ford to attend Pride is reminiscent of the old episode of Seinfeld where Kramer decides to participate in the AIDS walk, but refuses to wear the AIDS ribbon. “This is America, and I don’t have to wear anything I don’t want to wear,” he exclaims, right before he’s assaulted by a crowd of politically correct ribbon-bullies. Kramer has a point, though. While a liberal society can require that people be gay-neutral, it cannot demand—legitimately, liberally—that everyone be gay-positive. No one should be forced to wear the ribbon.

No one, that is, except elected officials. Unlike citizens, who merely need to accept the commands of the law, political leaders need to be seen as endorsing its spirit, in the name of representing their entire constituency. Unfortunately, Canadian politicians don’t have a great record on this. When Pierre Trudeau decriminalized same-sex sexual activity in 1969, he didn’t say there was nothing wrong with gay sex. He said, famously, that the state has no business in the nation’s bedrooms. When same-sex marriage became law in 2005, it was largely a judicial, not legislative, victory that was forced upon Paul Martin by the Supreme Court. And while he was more than willing to concede the Charter’s supremacy on the issue, the deeply Catholic Martin was never able to come right out and say that he thought it was right and proper that gays should be allowed to marry.

When it comes to Rob Ford, the concerns are even more serious. The “I have my own family tradition” excuse might be more persuasive if Ford didn’t have a long history of insensitivity toward the gay community (he once said that financial support for a video about gay issues was “absolutely disgusting”) and of opposition to the Pride festival itself (he has repeatedly threatened to withdraw city funding for the parade, ostensibly over the participation of a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.)

Toronto’s Pride parade is the third-largest in the world. Out of the top 10—including New York, London, San Francisco, Sydney, and Amsterdam—Toronto’s will be the only one where the host city’s mayor won’t be marching. If Rob Ford were gay-neutral, he would surely suck it up, drive back from the cottage a day early, and go to the parade. But when asked directly last week if he was homophobic, the Toronto Star reported that Ford simply “looked away and mumbled something unintelligible under his breath.”

If the mayor of Canada’s biggest and most cosmopolitan city can’t bring himself to even pretend to celebrate the sexual diversity of his city, then the utopia of banal acceptance is not even remotely at hand. Which leaves us with a bit of a logical conundrum, which we can call the Paradox of Ford: why should Rob Ford attend Pride? Because there are still people like Rob Ford around.


 

Sorry Rob, the gay pride parade is part of the job

  1. Rubbish. Also, pretending to like hockey has no impact on one’s moral conscience.

    • It could.  Your conscience could oppose the violence of the game.

      On the other hand on the topic of ‘Pride’, it’s good that some politician is taking a stand against the rather extreme form of activism that surrounds gay rights… I personally don’t care what they do in their bedrooms, but i sure do hate the politics of shoving it in people’s faces. I also don’t see how one has to be at least gay-neutral in a ‘liberal’ society. Shouldn’t a position of ‘I don’t like em but i recognise their right to exist’ be an acceptable point of view? Whether or not it’s acceptable from a public figure is up to the citizens to decide upon a new election.

  2. For the last 16 years the mayor has been at Toronto Pride; it is one of the duties of the office. If  Rob Ford would rather be at a cottage then he should get a 9-5 job and leave being mayor to someone who is willing and able to do the work.

    The most telling aspect of this whole affair has been the reaction of certain Toronto newspapers as well as Rob Ford’s supporters.

    If this were some other multi-million-dollar event taking
    place in the city or if it involved a previous mayor, Ford’s supporters
    would no-doubt criticize the lazy or inept person involved for not doing their
    job and condemn them for getting a 6-figure salary comprised of taxpayer
    dollars to sit on his or her duff in cottage country.

    In this instance however the right-wing press and voters in the GTA have
    either been silent about the issue or done a “flip-flop” of the expected opinion and
    come out in support of the mayor’s decision to goof off in Huntsville
    instead of doing the job in Toronto
    he campaigned to get. 

    The only reason to support a decision like this that shows a blatant disregard for taxpayers, visitors and city businesses is the thinly-veiled homophobia that
    is not only exhibited by Rob Ford but widely shared by his hypocritical supporters.

    • What a stupid post!  I would hardly say that keeping up with his yearly tradition and spending Canada Day weekend with his family at the cottage is goofing off.  While family traditions and values may mean nothing to you, it does appear to be special to him.  I live outside of Toronto and didn’t have a vote and didn’t care who Toronto got as a mayor.  However, I applaud him for not giving into the bullying he’s receiving about not attending an event that is about as family friendly as pole dancing in a bar.

  3. Thank you for being the first columnist to point out the political aspects of this rather than get mired in the muck with most pundits as they attempt to evaluate nude men vs gay rights vs water cannons.  The point is exactly what you state, which is that if you are the capital-M Mayor of a major city, YOU ATTEND THE GAY PRIDE PARADE.  Period.  Never mind the global top 10, I can’t even find another major city in North America whose mayor did not attend at some early point in their term.  (Ok, Oklahoma City was an exception.  But seriously…)

    I have no interest personally in gay matters.  But I care about Toronto’s mayor doing a professional job.  On transit, on bike lanes, on anything of consequence Rob Ford is increasingly a joke.

  4. Exactly. This isn’t about Rob Ford, but about the role of the mayor in Toronto.

    Even if he didn’t want to attend the parade, he could’ve at least showed up at the flag raising or any of the other dozen major events going on.

    By failing to make comment or attend any events at all, he’s emboldened the hatred we are now witnessing across the internet in the form of commentary.

    He should speak out now, because his silence is already speaking for him and the results ain’t pretty.

  5. I can’t believe people actually voted him into office.  The problem that Rob Ford does not see in front of him is the fact that he will not get another job in politics after this.  The gay community make up a large population and a lot of campaign dollars…this is something the republicans in New York finally realized.  He can kiss his political career goodbye if he continues with these homophobic actions.  He’s not the brightest one out there.

  6. “Sorry Rob, the gay pride parade is part of the job”

    Since when? There may be an unspoken precedence that a Mayor must attend, but he or she is not contractually obligated to do so. Considering the annomosity between Ford and the gay community I doubt anything he does or says now will change that perception out there that he’s a bigot. Ergo him being there is not good for anyone involved, particularly after the way this story has been sensationalized by the media trying to read subversive motives and mechanisms behind his decisions.

    Rob Ford can still be a good mayor to his gay constituents without having to march in a parade or attend a fucntion which glorifies sexual liberation, a touchy subject for so many who are not as comfortable in their own skin as others may be. It’s very apparent to me whenever he does interviews that he’s not at ease with being in the spotlight. So let bygones be bygones for now and hope that he experiences a change of heart by next year’s Pride. Mel Lastman did not attend Pride his first year on the job either, and he came around. Enough with the lynch-mob mentality.

  7. Thomas Sowell ~ If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today. 

    George Orwell ~ Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.

  8. The duties of the mayor’s office are the major’s job responsibilites, and they don’t include parades, parties, hockey games or whatever.

    Being a politician, mayors do have an interest in attending public events.  But to classify parades as part of the job is ridiculous, especially on a summer weekend when the mayor, like anyone else, needs R&R.  The mayor’s job is the mayor’s job, period.  If Potter wants to become the mayor’s agent and social secretary, then he should ask first.

    Ford won an election not long ago and doesn’t need Potter telling him what to do.  In fact, he won the election by ignoring the likes of Potter.

  9. The mayor should indeed be forced to march in what has always been a wonderful display of public exhibitionism.

    For years gay men and women in public life have been browbeaten and bullied by a handful of debauchees into attending an flamboyant extravaganza about their genitalia and what they do with them. Forced to pretend that because of a same-sex attraction, that they’re all of the same mind, beliefs, practices and opinions.
    And for years politicians of every stripe put on their game face and pretended they were delighted to be there; and that the gyrating and codpieced old man walking beside them was a bold free spirit declaring his freedom, and not some dirty old pervert.

    Why should Ford escape the embarrassment that countless other homosexuals and politicians have been forced to endure?

    Maybe one day Toronto will have a gay mayor with enough guts to kick that warped freakshow off the streets and into a convention center where it belongs. But Ford publicly supported it, so he march.

    Hopefully gay marriage will cure “Pride” Parades.

    • You don’t sound so fancy to me.

  10. If he’s not up to the job he can always resign.

    Gays pay taxes too

  11. Let him go the cottage. The more beer and wings he stuffs into himself the closer he is to leaving the job involuntarily.

    • Thanks for the levity. All the attempts to justify/rationalize/explain away ford’s choices are futile. This is one situation that speaks for itself. the mayor is a beligerant and narrow-minded person, and I am REALLY appalled at how his, and others like him (harper, hudak et al) actions empower all the other narrow-minded people out there who just love to express their indignation over having had to be civil for years, which of course they see only as the tyranny of political correctness.
      I really don’t know what is going on these days, but if this is the view of the majority, the Canada I thought I was living in was a total illusion.

  12. Ford also won’t be at the Italian festival in Toronto, does that mean he is anti-Italian?  He’s skipping the CHIN picnic too, is he ‘against’ that by not showing? 

    No. 

    When you see videos like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RxmM3thjfE  It’s clear that tolerance is a one-way street in the gay community.  They are happy to demand ‘tolerance’, but don’t you dare demand ‘tolerance’ from them in return.  Furthermore, it’s become clear there will be anti-Jewish groups ( http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=134850523192854 ) marching in the Dyke March. 

    People say the mayor should be the mayor of all people, does that not include the Jewish?  Pride has been polluted by politics and petty vindictiveness.  Frankly, I don’t blame Ford for giving it a pass.

    • Wow – imagine that was someone else – we would be outraged.

  13. Horse hokey.  It is NOT part of the job.  Just because other other politicians have been bullied or shamed into political correctness does not make it a requirement of their job.  True a lot of baby kissing has been done over the years to gain political acceptance but people also have to be true to themselves.  Ford is NOT PC, he did not run on a PC platform, he should not be held to an imaginary gay standard of supporting something he doesn’t support on a personal level.  What would you really like – a faux version of support or somebody who is honest about who they are?  I know who I would support — in a heartbeat.

  14. It’s not Ford’s duty to attend the gay price parade. I support equality for all but I also support people not getting strong-armed into doing things they don’t want to do. And to be frank, I don’t believe Ford got the gay vote so this does not affect him. Something tells me that no one is losing sleep in the boroughs around the city of Toronto. Just like failing to understand why Ford winning the election, city dwellers can’t seem to understand the GTA.

    • Rob Ford isn’t “people”, he’s the mayor. He has to do lots of things he doesn’t want to do. He had a choice to not run for mayor, but he didn’t take that choice, and is now stuck with the duties of the office. Duties that include acting like a mayor, and not a bigot. If the job is too hard for him, perhaps he should step down and let someone who is up for it take his place.

  15. Too bad Ford hasn’t the balls to ride on the Big Bear float. He could silence his critics perfectly with leather suspenders and chaps!

  16. I’ll go out on limb here and guess that a great number of constituents who voted for Rob Ford are not too supportive of bare topped women, adults behaving in an overtly sexual manner on floats, and skimpy, provocative clothing.  Whatever you think, the gay pride parade has a huge smut factor and most politicians would be wise not to mire themselves too deep in it.  If you take out the smut, watch the “supporters”/observers numbers dwindle.  Take out/ ban the topless women and the headlines will read: Thousands turn out for the parade (not millions)

    The porn industry draws tourism also, should Rob Ford go to a sex conference to support everyone’s sexuality.  Gay rights and exhibitionism are not the same thing.  I wish he would vocally refuse to attended until the parades clean up it’s lewd acts – but wait, then they wouldn’t get all the “support”. 

    Politicians are here to make laws and manage jurisdictions.  Dancing around with half-nude, sleezy, drunken co-eds only tells people you support parties and easy-sell attractions.  We could just as easily hold a Hetero Pride Week – with a sexually explicit/ Carnival-like parade and the same numbers would show up to “support” Heterosexual Freedom or whatever you want to call it.  Should the Mayor have to show up for that?

    And why does it get to be held on a long weekend?  Give that time to a sporting event next year, so families can enjoy tax-funded events too.

  17. I take issue with Andrew Potter’s comment; “While a liberal society can require that people be gay-neutral, ……….”. Society can “require” or even “demand” whatever it damned well pleases but there are millions of people who will never accept sodomy as a healthy or natural lifestyle. The Christian Faith which was instrumental in founding

  18. The fag parade is part of whats wrong with being the Mayor of Canada`s “Sodom”.

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