Jack of All Trades

Layton to Rest

Tribute to Jack Layton

The last few weeks have been very interesting. Emotions have been running high; rhetoric has been running wild; passion has been set aflame, becoming something palpable in the air; the CN Tower has been glowing orange at night as a tribute to someone who has created quite a stir on and off Parliament Hill. Unfortunately, the tribute exists because Jack Layton has passed on.

I didn’t go to his funeral*.

Later that same day, I sat in the courtyard of the Metro Centre, where his life was celebrated earlier in the day. My goal was simple: I was waiting for the sky to get darker – I wanted to take a photo of the CN Tower which was lit orange in honour of this vital man. As I sat there, people walked by, engaged in conversation about Layton. Some spoke of how incredible he was; others talked about how it was a shame that he was gone, but they also didn’t understand why such a big deal was being made out of his death.

I remember feeling a sense of profound sadness at the end of July, when he announced that he was taking time off to get better. Just listening to his voice, I could tell that he wasn’t going to make it. I wanted him to live a healthy life; I don’t wish ill on anyone, but there was some selfishness involved, as I wanted him to stick around because I hadn’t finished getting to know him**.

For the majority of the time that I have paid any attention to politics, he struck me as the “little brother” type: the guy who stands behind the more powerful, clucking his tongue and wagging his finger back and forth (occasionally yelling out “Yeah! What he said!”), then ducking back into the depths.

In the recent election where he brought his party to the table with a vengeance, I really started to like him. Contrary to popular belief, it had nothing to do with the “bandwagon effect”. His charisma was like an iron fist holding a mitt-full of sunflowers. Never petty; always graceful; he was amazing – totally on his game. I felt like he had finally found his stride, but it turns out that I was wrong – he had simply rediscovered it.

I don’t know why I held onto the impression that he was weak (not in the physical sense of the word) for so long. In the week following his death, I scanned YouTube for footage of him and was treated to the moving history of a man who stood up for what he believed in. Indeed, I never realized how progressive some of his views were; he was a forward-thinking, intelligent individual – with a ton of heart. Now that I have a view of the whole man, I can say that he lost his way for a little while at some point. However, at the risk of sounding too poetic, when he found his feet again, he was a mountain.

So to those who believe that we are making too much of a big deal about Jack Layton, I say “grow up”. In a time where we sorely need true heroes, we have blindly overlooked one that has been in front of us all along. Here is a man who embodied courage by fighting a losing battle against himself, only to win something much more precious for the rest of us.

* – I couldn’t go because of a prior obligation. I also wasn’t sure if I should go given that I didn’t know him as well as I would have liked. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite.
** – I still don’t profess to know him. But I feel like I know him better than I did. I published this now because I don’t want to be grouped with people that are just expressing grief because it’s the “thing” right now.

3 Responses

  1. Thoughtfully done. He’s been one of my heroes for years, and unlike you, I hadn’t realized the extent of his illness, so was gobsmacked by the news. Your take on him is a realistic and respectful one. thanks.

  2. That you have been moved to look back and reconsider the man and his views is commendable. But as this reassessment comes after the man’s death, I must ask:
    Are there any living politicians in Canada upon whom you would bestow similar praise?

    • Hi Sterling! Thanks for taking the time to read my post! It’s true; the assessment does come after his death. I’m sure there are living politicians that deserve the same amount of pre-post-mortem praise – but I have to do my homework – this takes a bit of time.

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