Rob Ford, the crack smoking, drunken driving, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic former mayor of Toronto died this week. I will not miss him.
Toronto seems to be caught in this bizarre state of uncertainty where people feel obligated to say nice things about Ford now that he is dead even though they had no end of insults for him while he was alive. I know that this is a fairly normal thing for people to do, but I honestly don't understand it.
Say nice things about people when they have a chance to feel good about those things. If you truly buy into the saying "Unless you have something nice to say, don't say anything at all" then it should apply to the living moreso than the dead. The dead don't care. Not that I buy into that saying at all, in fact I think it is worthless. Often what needs to be said isn't nice or pleasant, and hiding in silence, ignoring the things that are wrong, is not helpful or good.
Obviously you can extend this too far. I am not going to run over to Ford's house and laugh at his children saying "Haha you dad is dead". I don't want those who were close to him who are suffering at his death to pay for the things he did. Such guilt by association is not okay. But I wouldn't do that when he was alive either. When he was alive I would mock his policies and call out his bigotry, and I will do the same now that he has died. I wasn't writing my pieces for Ford or those who were part of his close circle because quite frankly they weren't reading my blog.
Once upon a time I wanted to write something nice about someone who was old. I talked to people about it, and was advised not to write it because the person might be hideously offended, thinking that I was eulogizing them, as though they were already dead to me. I think the advice I got was correct but it made me deeply sad that I couldn't say something good about someone until after they had died without causing pain and suffering.
I wonder if this attitude comes from the idea of eternal life of the soul. As if people still experience pain from seeing me criticize them, but cannot act on the world to right those wrongs or apologize.
I don't know if that supposition holds or not but since I don't buy into any sort of life after death concept it certainly holds no power over me. I think that cruelty, where it is warranted, is best directed at those who can no longer suffer. Generosity is best directed at those who can gain from it. So be kind to the living, and don't worry about the dead. They no longer care.