Some events warrant celebration, others are best forgotten

This is a week, memorable for the anniversaries that bookend it and for current events during the week that may also live on.

On Monday, Manitoulin Island celebrated the 100th anniversary of the very first swing of the famous swing bridge and this Friday, the world will recall (at least those who are of a certain age) the brutal assassination of then-US President John Kennedy.

Both of these events marked memorable milestones in local history or in world events.

In the case of the swing bridge’s centennial celebration, the completion of this built link, connecting Manitoulin to the larger world, soon brought trains into Little Current. Manitoulin Island was finally no longer merely an isolated region in Lake Huron.

For the people of Manitoulin in 1913, this must have been bigger in its time than the telephone, the arrival of television, the Internet, and social media combined.

People were used to coming to and leaving Manitoulin by water and the connections were largely with Owen Sound and Collingwood to the south and with Sault Ste. Marie in the North. Going to any of these destinations and then on to Toronto meant a major travel event.

While Manitoulin will always be an Island and a place defined by water, it was never after confined by water.

The days and dates of every week in 2013 correspond to the same day and date 50 and 100 years ago, so the first swing of the bridge on November 18, 1913 also took place on a Monday. That’s one of the bookends referenced earlier.

Likewise, this Friday, November 22 is the same weekday and date as the Kennedy assassination in 1963 and, just as the bridge represented a major change for Manitoulin, so did the assassination of John Kennedy mean an end to the innocent prosperity and seemingly boundless possibilities the 1950s had come to represent.

John Kennedy was popular in Canada and the lifestyle that he and his elegant wife Jackie represented was nicknamed Camelot, after the mythical castle of the equally mythical King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Camelot, a term coined by Mrs. Kennedy after the assassination, fit nicely with the charmed lives of these beautiful people. The embodiment of all that was good and right about the western way of life, they were transformed into North America’s royalty.

Camelot shattered that fantasy 50 years ago this Friday, and truly, the world has never been the same again, at least not for the people coming of age at that time. Those few pre-assassination Kennedy years were just too fanciful altogether. But those same young people briefly enchanted by the Kennedy mystique swiftly became the generation of change of which brought the hippie phenomenon and civil rights and women’s rights movements.

Contrast that with what we are now witnessing in Ontario’s largest city—the self-destruction of a mayor has been stripped by his council this week of any meaningful authority.

Will this also be remembered or celebrated in 25 or 50 years in any significant way? Certainly not the way the coming of the swing bridge to Manitoulin or the Kennedy assassination’s impact on the baby-boomer generation has, that’s for sure.

Mayor Ford may be remembered, if at all, as the vilest man to hold the office of mayor of Canada’s largest city; it would be a fine thing to be prescient enough to be able to add the word “ever” to this last statement but let us hope Mayor Ford holds the negative reference record for time to come, that it doesn’t get any worse.

He must be held up by fathers, mothers too, as a sterling example for growing and maturing boys of how not to behave towards girls and women, ever.

Mayor Ford smoked crack cocaine. Denied it vehemently. Admitted it.

Mayor Ford drove after drinking. Denied it. Admitted it.

Mayor Ford stated very graphically and publicly and in the language of the gutter what sexual act he did not perform on a co-worker.

And then, in what is likely a public statement unprecedented by any mayor of a large and modern city, he told the media, and hence the world, that he had no need to inflict himself on co-workers in this way because he was a married man and he had an ample supply of the same thing at home.

So this was a man who strove to get himself out of an uncomfortable allegation by dragging his wife into the debate, in a most unpleasant and certainly misogynistic manner, and all of this during the month where family violence is highlighted for public abhorrence, just as domestic violence issues were front and centre in October, just last month.

It’s unlikely that Mayor Ford consulted his wife about what he was going to say publically about their (usually) private sexual relationship. No doubt the woman was as surprised and shocked as most other people, likely much more so, to hear the intimate details of their marital relationship detailed for public consumption. What kind of example does this set for those inclined to harm a girl or a woman, other than to encourage and normalize that kind of behaviour just a little bit more?

Mayor Ford, as he is determined not to resign, deserves to be publicly shunned if only for the nasty, mean spirited things he said about his co-worker, his wife and, by association, all females. His council did exactly the right thing by turning their backs to him when he next spoke at city hall.

Mayor Ford’s example in his stated attitude towards women is so obvious that he will certainly be a useful anti-role model for boys and young men to be told not to emulate.

It will be simple: “Mayor Ford was Toronto’s chief magistrate and he said this about a co-worker and then he said that about his wife. You wouldn’t ever do that, would you? Don’t ever dream of speaking or even thinking this way. It’s vile, antisocial and is the sort of thing that helps dehumanize us.”

That may well be Mayor Ford’s legacy, useful in its way, to help parents raise their sons properly by standing as a negative reference of epic proportions.

Will Mayor Ford stand the test of time? Will his public and anti-female tirade be remembered 50 and 100 years from now as a pivotal moment?

Hopefully not. For the time being, though, it will be a teaching aid, useful in the rearing of common-sense youth by common-sense parents.