Mayor Rob Ford has been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of cancer. He has dropped out of mayoral race since a tumor was found in his abdomen. As Ford is facing a tough battle of a lifetime, his political charisma and his genuine “man of the people” attitude has won a place in the hearts of those whose life has been touched by him.
Chinese News reprints Nancy Jin’s story: A photo with the infamous Mayor that I will always remember. The story was written after Jin had grabbed a quick photo with the mayor at a Harbourfront food fare in July.
A photo with the infamous mayor I will always remember
Ever since Rob Ford returned from rehab, the infamous Mayor has continued to rock the boat with new scandals. At a crowded Harbourfront food fare, Nancy Jin came face-to-face with Ford’s larger than life personality and was even able to grab a quick photo with the Mayor himself. As Jin writes, Ford’s personable and genuine ‘man of the people’ attitude is a stark contrast to her memories of elite politicians in China.
Despite all the personal scandals that have plagued the reputation of Mayor Rob Ford, he is still described by some as a man of the people. Wherever he goes – night clubs, street festivals, or social events--he shares his image with people of all ages, genders, races, and in all kinds of dress.
Amongst scores of Torontonians who have shared a photo with the mayor with a cell phone camera, I was one of them. And it happened at the T&T Food Fare on Harbourfront last Saturday night.
I spotted the Mayor between vendor booths, in a crowd of people holding noodle sticks and tofu boxes. He was posing for a cell phone camera of a Chinese man in his 60’s and in a blue T-shirt. The man took the shoot seriously. He gave his bottle of yogurt and a carton of fried squid to his wife, and told her not to shoot until he gave the order.
“Make sure we look close on the photo,” he said in Chinese.
I waited for a minute before the man finally smiled at the image in his cell phone. I then stepped over, just as the mayor was ready to move on.
“If you want to take a photo with him, you should walk ahead of him and ask him loudly,” his assistant advised.
But I easily secured a spot beside him – and he noticed me.
Timidly I asked, “May I have a photo with you, Mayor?”
He nodded, seemingly preoccupied with other thoughts, but still made a smiling pose for my camera.
The photo wasn’t visually flattering.Not specifically different from other photos I’ve ever taken, but I was excited that I took a photo with the mayor of Canada’s most vibrant city.
Some media reports say that the mayor poses in photos to seek public attention, while others have revealed that people were only exploiting the mayor by taking photos with him ever since his scandals were exposed. Some even post their photos with the Mayor on Facebook just to blast him.
“I have never seen someone who is so alone surrounded by so many people,” one post says.
“I wish I’d been able to say ‘shame on you’ to him, but something human stopped me,” reads another.
But I am thrilled to have this photo taken, and it was I who sought attention from him, though I doubt he will remember me. I have kept the photo as a valuable memento.
Yes, I am flattered that I took a photo with the mayor. I am an immigrant, and I came from a country where the mayor belongs to the politically echelons, and was considered superior to the millions of citizens they governed-- socially, financially and politically. Wherever the mayors went, they were escorted by an entourage and a security detail. They were always hidden from plain sight in tinted luxury cars, appeared in high-end areas only exclusive to the privileged. They never showed up in public areas, and ordinary people had no chance to see them in person, let alone pose for a photo.
But Ford is starkly different. He is reportedly always on his cell phone and returning any and all calls from constituents. When he offers help, he does not discriminate– regardless of who you are and what social class you belong to. He had also coached a high school football team; most of the players were from low income or single-parent families.
His ‘by the people, for the people’ attitudecould partially explain why he has survived so many scandals and attacks from his opponents and the media, and that his core supporters have hardly diminished since his scandals were exposed.
And that is the reason why I take my photo-op as a rare opportunity -- regardless of his scandals and personal flaws.
“I help out everybody. I help out everyone and I have never taken one dime from taxpayer’s money,” he said in responding to media allegations that he and his brother advocated on behalf of his family business clients.
Needless to say, many statements from the scandal swamped mayor have been under public scrutiny – from his earlier denials of drug use to his claims that rehab has rescued him from his addiction—but not all have been outright lies.
Whether the Fords have breached the code of conduct of a public official is up to the city’s integrity commissioner, but I give credit to the Mayor’s explanation of his motivations.
And to that end, I believe in the Mayor’s words– he genuinely tries to help everyone who comes to him for help.
I was given a fridge magnet after taking the photo, with the Mayor’s number at the bottom. I’ve saved the valuable image in my laptop and posted the magnet on the fridge door. I will be sure to give him a call when I need his help, and I believe he will try to help me – even though he does not remember me.
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