Doug Ford and Autism

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Somewhere inside the heart and mind of Doug Ford there is the agony of failure. There is something there that he does not want to admit to, and I bet that something has to do with the fact that he is a failure to his father. Doug Ford is not a successful businessman. He did not build a great business. He is not a great politician, and he is a terrible strategist. He has had privilege and opportunity handed to him. He has had money and a thriving business handed to him, and he has been able to work with these. But he wasn’t able to create them.

I think Doug Ford would have liked for people to call him a self-made man. I think the energy and focus that he puts into the work of managing his brother’s mayoral career and campaign is a feeble attempt at self-legitimization, as if to say, “Look, I did this. I can do something.”

He wears tailored suits. His image, though severe, is impeccable, and he has tried to train his sweaty, distractible Golden Child brother to keep up appearances. Ambition is written across his face, but true success has evaded him.

The April 17 launch was a failure. His ambition sought out an over-large hall, in which acres of empty tables surrounded an ill-conceived prop. An impotent wreck of a fire truck. Even the balloons wouldn’t fall. His stubborn refusal to delegate led to the loss of a crucial supporter database, and an embarrassing launch of an incomplete campaign website. His contempt for people smarter than he is forces him to first ignore and deflect the media’s questions, and then rely instead upon a single lackey journalist as his media mouthpiece.

Doug is a failure desperately trying to hide his ineffectiveness inside the bluster of a bully. And the city of Toronto is his schoolyard.

Hurts, doesn’t it, Mr.Ford?

It hurts to have your weaknesses exposed. Even if Doug Ford actually reads these words, and even if he categorically denies them, the fact is people continue to detect the reek of failure upon him. Especially after he makes his next speech, blaming the media, blaming the lack of subways, blaming anything but himself or his brother, people will still raise an eyebrow and think to themselves, “Yeah right. Loser.”

That’s got to hurt when you know that people all around you see you as different, less capable, an inferior part of society.

It must be like what autistic kids feel.

Doug Ford’s inexcusable act of berating the residents and operators of the Griffin Centre revealed an even darker side to his massively insecure personality. His words immediately cast a small group of emotionally troubled kids – some with autism – as second or third class citizens, better suited for life on a farm or a compound than in the comfortable suburbs of Etobicoke. His willingness to buy the house and sell it himself had a striking Dickensian ring to it, as he singularly steamrollered the dignity and dedication of those kids as well as their families and the people who work with them, to expedite their departure from the neighbourhood.

While his brother, troubled as he is with his own addictions and disorders, sees fit to take a break from the serious effort of treatment so as to not miss the fun of the May 2-4 long weekend as well as a few well-placed and well-dressed photo-ops, Doug Ford continued to insult and demean – demanding to know if these particular youths had criminal records, and how many times the police had been called to the house, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the same questions could just as easily be asked of himself and the mayor.

This is a city made up of many different types of people, with different abilities, orientations, origins, and lives. Some struggle, while others do well of their own volition. Some people are lucky, most are not. But this is a good city. We all contribute and we have a tradition of helping each other. When Doug Ford insults a child who is struggling with autism, he insults every one of us.

This is a great city. A large number of people made donations to the Griffin Centre following news of Mr. Ford’s comments. They made these contributions to help let these kids know that we are with them. We care for them and for the people around them, because that’s what Toronto does. We help people. We are fair. We are genuine. We are known the world over for being excessively polite, and people are amazed at stories of Torontonians who pay their full subway fare even if the booth is temporarily empty or if the attendant is looking the other way.

Sure we have our troubles and challenges. But every city does. So does every family. So does every individual.

Mr. Ford’s angry tirade revealed far more than the daily bigotry and arrogance that we have now come to expect from him and his brother. It reveals the shame he feels at being a lesser person. He doesn’t have what those in his social circle have and no amount of money can buy it. He feels secondary.

But I know that those hard working kids at the Griffin Centre are big enough to forgive him.

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