When you grow up as I did, in Buffalo, or for that matter any reasonably populous city on the Canadian border, you get used to having a relationship with Canada much like feuding siblings have. We'd see them as a big country with an even bigger inferiority complex, aware they weren't in the same position on the world stage as the United States.
And yet, there was always this sense of moral superiority we felt from our neighbors to the North, lording it over us that they had little crime and universal health care and didn't go around starting wars. When you'd travel with Canadian friends in Europe or Asia, the first thing they'd do – and this was not limited to college-age people – was to sew a red maple leaf on their backpacks or satchels. God and the Queen forbid anyone mistook them for Americans.
We frequently had embarrassing episodes with which they didn't want to be associated, such as , oh, a former D.C. Mayor getting caught in a 1990 sting, smoking crack and muttering "goddamn bitch set me up" as he was confronted by law enforcement. Well, now that we're learning a bit more about the mayor of Canada's arguably most glamorous city, Toronto, may I just say: et tu, Canada?
Mayor Rob Ford has now admitted to smoking crack cocaine and then lying about it for six months. Only when a video surface that showed the portly mayor appearing to be inhaling from a glass bowl did Ford start the process of admitting he had used a dangerous and addictive drug. Oh – and broken the law.
Stunningly, Ford seems not to grasp the magnitude of what he has done, saying to reporters:
Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. Have I tried it? Probably, in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.
Ah. So fear not, folks. He's just a social crack addict.
A couple of hours later, Ford apologized – sort of. Then he haughtily suggested that it was the media and his critics who were obsessed with this crack thing, and that all he wanted to do was to get back to the business of being mayor. Said Ford:
I know what I did was wrong, and admitting it was the most difficult and embarrassing thing I've ever had to do. … [But] there is important work that we must advance and important decisions that must be made. For the sake of the taxpayers of this great city, for the sake of the taxpayers, we must get back to work immediately. We must keep Toronto moving forward.
The media displayed herculean self-control by not responding to that comment (and Ford's insistence he would not resign) with the question: "What are you, ON DRUGS?
The contemporary version of this in the U.S. is the case of Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, who has been getting beaten up for going to a raucous teenage party to talk to his son, one of the attendees. Kids were – gasp! – dancing on the tables and many had red plastic cups that just might have included alcohol. OK, it's probably likely that they included alcohol, and yes, they were breaking the law. (And it's a stupid law, since forcing people to wait until age 21 to drink merely encourages binge drinking. And it's particularly bizarre that someone can be 16 and get married in Maryland – 15, if the girl is pregnant or has given birth – but not have a drink, which is far less of a responsibility than a lifelong commitment to another human being.) But Gansler, who is running for governor, has been pilloried for failing to call the police or otherwise halting the drinking.
And Ford thinks he gets to stay in office and do what he says he loves best – saving taxpayers money? Quit metaphorically rolling your eyes at us, Canada. We've been eclipsed in the gall-and-arrogance department.
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