On Rob Ford and generosity of spirit | #TOpoli #Jack

Bear with me for a second.

I’ve been indulging in some rather unseemly woohooing, both here and on the Tweeter, over the results of this week’s transit debate at city council. And yes, I’ve been just as guilty as the next progressive tweeter of doing an in-your-face happy dance. And even more: I’ve succumbed to temptation and taken my share of cheap shots at Rob Ford. God knows, he leaves himself open to them with everything he says and does, as a matter of policy and everything he stands for. If I were a better person, I’d resist the temptation more successfully.

I know, I know. Sanctimonious wankery. I’m guilty of it more often than I want to admit (like maybe all the time …). 

And in fact, I’m probably never more insufferable (hence the request that you bear with me) than when I start on about generosity of spirit. It ain’t the way the world works, much as I would wish otherwise, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth striving for. 

Once again: true generosity of spirit seeks no external validation. It is its own reward. It doesn’t look for applause, it doesn’t seek affirmation, and it is extended with no expectation of any quid pro quo. Moreover, it is extended to those who do not deserve it precisely because they do not deserve it. That is what makes it what it is.

I don’t claim to have a unique understanding of it. And I don’t pretend to have any special insights or window into people’s hearts. But to the extent that anyone can have such insight, I choose to believe that it flows from an essential decency. 

Which leads me to this:

I’ve said some nasty things about Rob Ford. But in this situation, I think he’s speaking from the heart. Without a script, without handlers, without talking points. And he’s expressing genuine sadness, setting aside political disagreement, and remembering Jack as a decent and honourable man.

I’m posting this now because I think it’s worth noting: for all his missteps, for all his wrongheadedness, for all his faults, Rob Ford is capable of just the sort of generosity of spirit I’m describing. (I know there is good in you … the Emperor hasn’t destroyed it … )

Perhaps the challenge for progressives is in finding that, and in making it possible for him to express it.

I’d like to wind up on that note, but I can anticipate some of the reactions: accusations of naivete, simplistic thinking, even suckiness. And those accusations wouldn’t be entirely wrong. It’s easy to point out that those on the other side don’t have that. They’ll take advantage of it, so why give them ammunition? That’s why we’ll always be at a tactical disadvantage when we’re engaging with people willing to do Whatever It Takes to Win, and that’s why our victories are always going to be more nuanced.

I can’t honestly suggest that this is the right path for everyone. I just need to be able to like what I see when I look in the mirror when I’m shaving in the morning. If that puts me and the people I work with at a tactical disadvantage, then so be it.

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