I agree entirely with Christie that we now live in a society overflowing with misplaced sentimentality. On a downtown Toronto street I used to live on, residents left teddy bears and heart shaped balloons outside the rooming house of a murdered woman whose name they didn’t care to know in life. When Princess Diana died the U.K. lost its mind and the global lamentations reduced the passing of Mother Teresa five days later to the status of a retired Hollywood B-lister. But Layton’s death has rung a few gongs I don’t think Christie is taking into account.
Even though Layton looked like a dying man on July 25, I don’t think many thought he would be consumed by cancer in a matter of weeks. Unbeatable, terminal cancer is something we live in fear of for ourselves and our loved ones. To watch a man be felled by the disease before our eyes in such a short time is jarring and humbling. Layton’s death is also testimony to the fact that no-one “fights” cancer. If not stopped by medicine, no amount of grit or positive thinking can prevent the disease from hollowing out a person and extinguishing the spirit. Jack Layton was the soul of positivity … and cancer took him, anyway.
Another layer of grief is added when you consider how wrenchingly unfair Layton’s passing is. He grasped but never pulled on the brass ring. Not to put an entire nation on the psychiatrist’s couch, but let’s face it, most of us live under the presumption that when our toiling is done there will be enough remains of the day to enjoy reflection, laurels and the company of those we love. Having just reached a new height in his career, and with exciting times ahead for him and his party, Layton was struck down in a few weeks.
And lastly, there is Jack, and yes, I will call him Jack. He wasn’t the only nice guy in politics, but he was one of the few to ever achieve such heights. He was on a permanent charge fuelled by an eternal optimism. At the core of the public’s reaction to his death is the recognition that he had a vision of Canada and of a society, and he was unwavering in his advocacy for it. Other politicians might pander with foolish and populist policies, or denounce things they actually believe in for political gain. Jack stayed the course. Is principal now so rare that a man who stands firm for those things he believes in is seen as vainglorious, self-serving and stubborn?I decline to comment on the man, but those like John who have inflated a "working politician" into some sort of puffed up Social Justice Saviour (is it just me, or are these hyperventilations reminiscent of the Obama swooners' hot air?) are certainly vainglorious, self-serving and stubborn.
Also peripatetic, poetic and chic.
What next? Renaming Valley Park Middle School the Jack Layton Memorial Middle School (to go along with the TDSB edifice named for Dr. Norman Bethune, another gone-too-soon Canadian "hero")?
Update: A letter in the Globe and Mail has some other suggestions:
A suitable tribute
Why don’t we build a lasting tribute to Jack Layton’s memory? Flowers fade and kind notes disintegrate. A permanent project close to his heart might be a low rental apartment building in Toronto’s downtown core. Another suggestion might be a home for the homeless complete with a social administrator and a nurse on duty to monitor resident needs, including drug compliance for the mentally ill. A kitchen serving healthy food would be a loving touch.
Pauline Carrick, Port Hope, Ont.The Jack Layton Memorial Soup Kitchen and Needle Exchange--perfect!