Tuesday, August 23, 2011

one of a kind

Canada lost a great politician Monday morning. Jack Layton was one of the few politicians that I admired (well, there was Obama, but he has yet to make good on some of the major things that he promised, such as closing Guantanamo, and increasing taxes on the wealthy while decreasing taxes on the not-so-wealthy--in fact, he extended the Bush tax cuts this year. Ahem.). Jack was one of those politicians who actually helped to make Canada--and the world--a better place. He was an environmentalist (the environment section of the NDP's '11 platform was a lot more action-oriented than the environment section of the Liberal Party's platform, which was one of the reasons why I voted for the NDP, rather than the Grits, this year). He was in favour of proportional representation (instead of the current first-past-the-post voting system). He was the kind of guy who liked to roll up his sleeves and get things done. And, like me, once he set his mind to something, the guy never backed down (and these are just four reasons why he was awesome).

Jack was a breath of fresh air in Canada's federal politics. While he was actually working to make things better, the other parties (Conservatives, Liberals, and Bloc Québecois) were still bickering over whether that thing needed to be done, and if so, how to do it. I remember last year when the NDP passed Bill C-311, a.k.a. the Climate Change Accountability Act, which I supported (and I've been getting emails from the NDP ever since). But although it passed in the House of Commons, it was defeated in the Senate, which was, and still is, a serious bummer. However, it was reintroduced in the House this past June, so there might be hope. Keep your fingers crossed!

I'm the kind of person who likes to check the news and Facebook first thing in the morning, so when I logged onto FB and read my news feed, I saw a whole bunch of people and organizations, starting with one of my former residence-mates, Karlie, saying that Jack was... DEAD?! WHAT?! Oh. My. God. NO! I was in shock. I'm still in shock: sometimes I think, "oh, my God, Jack's dead," and I don't want to believe it. I cry every time I think about that fact (including now).

By the way, I didn't know until yesterday (Tuesday) that not only do I share a birthday with Nelson Mandela, but I also share(d) a birthday with Jack. July 18 is a pretty awesome date. I only wish I'd known sooner...

Later that day, Jack's final letter to Canadians, which was dated August 20th, '11, was released. Although I link to it on rabble.ca here, I read it on the CBC's website. The letter is beautifully written, and since it's release people have been quoting it on Facebook--in status updates and on profile pics. As I wrote when I posted it to Facebook, I'd "been crying off and on for the last few hours, but I completely lost it when I read the ninth paragraph of Jack's letter ("To young Canadians")." It took me a long time to get through that paragraph. Here it is:
"All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future."
Thank you, Jack--for inspiring me, for getting me excited about voting and politics this year (and, gee, the Americans thought they had all the fun back in '08)--to steal a phrase from the Obama '08 campaign, I was "fired up and ready to go", for proving that a third party that had never done better than that could become the Official Opposition, for never backing down, for caring about the environment--and for simply being awesome. I was proud to vote NDP this year. May you rest in peace--and please say hi to Pierre Trudeau for me if you ever meet up with him in Paradise.

The condolence page on the NDP website

No comments:

Post a Comment