Benign or malignant? It’s impossible to know just yet. Perhaps it’s best to focus on the blessings of the present moment. Here are several unconflicted ways in which I can be happy for Rob Ford.
I’m really happy for Rob Ford that we live in a city and country with socialized medicine. With no apparent privilege given to his personal wealth and influence, he could journey from a nutritious breakfast to the emergency room to a CT scan to an ambulance to an elite care facility to receive an MRI and biopsy in a matter of hours, without having to worry about how he or his family will pay for it. I’m also relieved that if cancer patients of lesser means somehow got the impression he was jumping the queue, their general belief in Canadian fairness would soothe their concern.
I’m happy that Rob Ford has been cared for by well-trained physicians and support staff at Humber River Regional and Mount Sinai hospitals, some of whom are gay and/or people of colour and/or have real Jamaican accents. I imagine the nurses – many from parts of the world where there are few social services to speak of – are so friendly, they’ll let chums like Don Cherry show up after visiting hours with a double-double and the gift of a flashy tie.
I’m happy that Rob Ford got to spend time in emergency with alcoholics, drug addicts, people with HIV, homeless people who couldn’t find a bed in our shelter system, librarians, elites and other minorities, people who have been hit by cars while riding their bikes, victims of construction accidents, food poisoning and domestic violence. It can feel so reassuring to know you are part of a society in which everyone, no matter what their health, economic, or ethical challenges may be, is cared for with equal attention to evidence, transparency, and established protocol.
I’m glad for Rob Ford that some city councilors are working to improve public transit access to hospitals so that lower-wage employees can get to work more easily to serve people like him. I’m glad for Ford that some councilors are advocating for more bike lanes, to help those who cycle to work at the hospitals remain safe from the ominous SUVs that are sometimes driven by people who are drinking vodka straight from the bottle and making obscene gestures.
I’m really glad that if Renata Ford and the children were to be economically ruined by Rob Ford’s illness or death, many city councilors are fighting for more support and shelter services for the vulnerable and for abuse survivors, instead of brokering purely financial deals with condo developers, nightclub owners, and Jon Bon Jovi.
I’m really happy for Rob Ford that if he dies or remains incapacitated, and his children, for some reason, some day, need the help of a “hug-a-thug” programme, many councilors will have stood up for more programming for at-risk youth.
I’m really glad that Ford will, with no service-fee cost to him, be offered pain relief for his lower-left-quadrant abdominal mass and the therapies that will be used to treat it. The drugs he will be given may be similar to medications offered for free at drug treatment centres, which despite many strange objections have proven indispensible in relieving the chronic physical and emotional pain that addicts so often have to live with.
I’m glad for Rob Ford that he presides over a city so generous and kind-hearted that atheists stand shoulder to shoulder with agnostics and the faithful and nod solemnly as the Chinese-Canadian mayoral candidate whose parents “worked like dogs” offers prayers for his health and well-being.
I’m glad that Rob Ford has his loving brothers, especially Doug, who will not only carry his torch on the campaign trail, but advise him on how best to perform the part-time job of serving Etobicoke’s Ward 2 from his hospital bed. I’m glad that they’ll be happy to save the city yet more money by repurposing lawn signs and buttons and click-dragging copy from one website to another. I’m happy for Rob that, win or lose, family will always come first for the Fords, sustained by the passion for free markets. Doug will accept the mayoral baton from Rob, or not, with sympathetic eye-contact and an avuncular handshake. In sickness or in wealth (or both or neither), they will march with pride, arm in arm down union-paved roads in the annual Jesus in the City parade.
I’m also genuinely glad, and also quite moved, that Rob Ford enjoys the support of so many regular people who love him because he has learned to act at home among them. His years of service have exposed a tinderbox of alienation and rage that only he has been able to both mobilize and soothe. I also love him, in my own way, because without even trying he’s shown me something crucial about the necessity of empathy, and what happens when that empathy is hard to find.
To sum up: I’m so very glad that Rob Ford benefits from the kindnesses and services he has always voted against. I absolutely wish him an end to his pain and a speedy recovery, with the willing help of our tax dollars, because that’s what I would wish for everyone.