If I May Be Serious for a Moment

If I May Be Serious for a Moment:

Yesterday, we saw the state funeral for Canadian politician, Jack Layton. It was a very moving and powerful event, and I wound up pouring my heart out a bit in the “What amazed you today?” thread over at the GalacticaBBS forum. I thought I’d take a brief break from sci-fi and fantasy and post it here, too. My original and unaltered post follows:

I’m not sure this is the right thread for this, but what amazed me today is the state funeral for Jack Layton, Canada’s official opposition leader.

I need to give some backstory here. Jack Layton was the leader of the New Democratic Party, a party long considered to have no real chance of mainstream success, but respected by many. The NDP has, in some circles, been called “Canada’s conscience.” Jack was the nice guy who finished last–until our last election.

In part because of the utter collapse of two of our other parties, the NDP experienced an unprecedented surge, going from a walking joke of a party to the official opposition, barely falling short of enough seats to threaten our ruling Conservatives. It was Jack Layton that led his party out of anonymity and into mainstream success, but a mere few months after this happened, he experienced a cancer relapse, and died within weeks, at the peak of his success.

And now his untimely death has been the top story for every Canadian news outlet for a week. His state funeral (which I’m watching over my shoulder as I type this) is dominating every channel. There has been an out-pouring of grief for him unlike anything I’ve ever seen from the Canadian people. At Toronto city hall, where he once served as a councilor, every available surface has been covered by chalk messages of grief, or respect–and all completely unprompted. All this for a man who was the butt of all political jokes this time last year.

Maybe it’s a case of we don’t know what we got until it’s gone. I know it’s true in my case. As much as I admired his party, I was never the biggest fan of Jack himself–I knew him to be a good man, but he always struck me as awkward, as trying too hard to be likable, especially during the brief period after the American election where he tried to convince everyone he was the white, Canadian Barack Obama. But now that he’s gone, I’m learning more about him, and I realize he was a great man. Partly it’s to be blamed on my youth; I wasn’t alive in the 80s, so I had no idea he spent that time crusading for the rights of homosexuals and AIDS patients long before anyone cared about either group.

Jack was an idealist, and never shy about it. He argued in favour of peace, even with groups like the Taliban, no matter how unpopular that might be.

As impressed as I am with the man, I am equally impressed with his funeral. From O, Canada sung bilingually to the readings from religious books of three faiths to the First Nations blessing given at the opening of the ceremony, this is the embodiment of what it is to be Canadian. Not out of many into one, but out of many into many, celebrating our diversity and the strength it gives as a people. This is a ceremony Jack would be proud of–he did plan most of it before his passing, after all–and that, more than anything, convinces me that he was a great man, and worthy of the heroic treatment he’s been given in the last few days.

It’s not often these days that I can take pride in my country, but today, I’m proud to be Canadian, and I’m proud that I voted for Jack Layton.

Au revoir, Le Bon Jack. One of the greatest prime ministers Canada never had. Orange crush!

Sorry for the long post, but I felt the need to get this off my chest.

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