Toronto must feel like a city alone right now. The rest of the world is laughing at you. More specifically, we are laughing at your crack-smoking mayor and his adolescent gladiator fantasies. Implicitly, though, you know the world is essentially laughing at all of Toronto for electing this very strange man to run your town.
I know the feeling. Detroit experienced the same thing five years ago when Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's sex-texting, corrupt tenure ended in a blaze of cop-shoving and felony convictions.
It's not easy when your mayor is the lead segment on The Daily Show, or that every conversation with out-of-town relatives and friends now starts with a question about "the mayor," or how every attempt at damage control only seems to make things worse.
From the outside, it boggles the mind that Toronto could have elected such a buffoon in the first place. I'm sure there were reasons. It's easy to forget, but when Kwame Kilpatrick was elected in 2001, he was seen as a rising young political star comparable to other young mayors like Baltimore's Martin O'Malley and, later, Newark's Corey Booker.
It's incredible how our best hopes can so quickly spiral out of control. It's even more incredible how long it can take to achieve resolution and closure.
It would be wonderful if, having been caught, the Kilpatricks and Fords just slithered away. Life is never that neat and tidy.
Toronto likely will have to force Mr. Ford out, kicking and screaming and probably (sorry, can't resist) in his underwear. Getting him out of your mind will be harder than you think. Dealing with an embarrassment like Kwame Kilpatrick or Rob Ford is something of a psychic trauma. All the dime-store psychobabble about stages of grief starts to ring true. You go through all of them.
Denial: When Kwame Kilpatrick was re-elected in 2005, Detroit knew he was dirty. His former deputy police chief was suing the city, reports surfaced that Mr. Kilpatrick was playing fast and loose with city-issued credit cards, he was caught lying about his wife's city-leased Lincoln Navigator, and, most damaging, he already began using long-term borrowing to pay the city's day-to-day bills.
Yet Detroit still reelected him. Our most prominent and powerful businessmen supported his campaign. News organizations, upon his reelection, talked about easing off and giving Mr. Kilpatrick a second chance. We didn't want to believe what we knew to be true.
Even the release of an embarrassing and voluminous text-message record in 2008 didn't actually force Mr. Kilpatrick's resignation. It took an indictment for perjury and a night in jail for violating bond and Mr. Kilpatrick shoving a Sheriff's investigator before the consensus was large enough to finally force the mayor to leave office.
Someone voted for these guys. We believed in them. When a Ford or Kilpatrick melts down, it's not just their failure. It reflects badly on all of us. No one wants to believe the person they entrusted with their city is an emotional train wreck.
Anger: Usually directed at the messenger. The Toronto Sun's Ezra Levant tweeted that the release of the latest Ford video was "cyberbullying." If that's cyberbullying, then the phrase no longer has any useful meaning.
Mr. Kilpatrick too had his apologists lashing out at anyone attempting to hold him accountable. The sociologist and author Michael Eric Dyson accused Mr. Kilpatrick's detractors of being weighed down by a "a heap of stereotype and presumption." The seemingly endless record of wrongdoing didn't faze them. It was the people exposing the wrongdoing who were the problem.
Bargaining: As these controversies drag on, more than a few people want a quick and dirty resolution. Expect someone to suggest a such an arrangement for Ford. Maybe he goes to rehab for two weeks – or "takes a break" as his brother Doug suggested on Friday – if everyone promises not to talk about his crack usage ever again.
When it was clear that Kwame Kilpatrick's days were numbered, his political friends begged for leniency from Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
"We're not asking that the mayor not receive any punishment if he's wrong," Mr. Kilpatrick's pastor Drew Sheard told the Detroit Free Press in August 2008. "However, we don't want to kill him. We want him to live and work and provide for his family."
Depression: When Kwame Kilpatrick resigned there was a brief moment of euphoria, but it quickly faded. In reality, the seven years of administration were a dead zone of missed opportunities and embarrassing moments for a city that didn't need additional grief. All our attempts to pretend Mr. Kilpatrick was something different from the cad he was only prolonged the misery.
Following Mr. Kilpatrick's resignation, interim mayor Ken Cockrel and his CFO Joe Harris discovered the true damage wrought by Kwame Kilpatrick. He had papered over years of recklessness and mismanagement. The city's debt load spiraled out of control while Mr. Kilpatrick and his chief of staff were having trysts in suburban motels.
The scope of Rob Ford's damage to Toronto, beyond a bruised reputation, likely won't be discovered for a while. However, if Detroit's experience is any clue, the Rob Ford hangover likely will be worse than the media circus.
Acceptance: When Kwame Kilpatrick was found guilty of corruption and racketeering earlier this year and sentenced to 28 years in prison, there was no outcry from supporters or celebration from detractors, just a quiet sense of relief that the Kilpatrick chapter was finally concluded.
With city government – in no small part because of Mr. Kilpatrick's mismanagement – in bankruptcy, Detroit has other things to worry about. It took several years, but we finally accepted that Mr. Kilpatrick was a simply bad guy and we've moved on.
Toronto too, hopefully without a trauma on the scale of municipal bankruptcy, will get past Rob Ford. Eventually.