A1 Great! Part lies, part heart, part truth, part garbage.


I was working on a couple of promotional ideas that were going to dictate the flow of my day when the news came out: Jack Layton, dead. So sudden. So awful.

But we had a feeling that this day was coming fast, didn’t we? The Jack Layton we had come to know so well in Canadian politics for what felt like forever was not the same Jack Layton who announced that he had to step down from leadership of the NDP a few weeks ago. Cancer patients usually look either puffy and swollen or skinny and gaunt, and the latter was definitely how Mr. Layton appeared before us that day, like cancer had already destroyed ten or twenty percent of him. Or more.

On reflection this morning, it occurred to me that Jack Layton’s words and actions might have been at the centre of political dogma all this time. Yeah, it’s traditional Liberal territory, but the NDP rise to the rank of Official Opposition this year showed that what he was saying was finally starting to resonate, was finally starting to sound not like the extreme leftist stuff that the NDP brochure was always painted as (and never really was), and more like the kind of thinking that could put us where we would want to be, the state of mind that we’d like being Canadian to mean. What we’d like being human to mean.

After all, what is more human than to want to keep ourselves fed when others are hungry? What is more human than wanting to have a few more material possessions, even if it requires taking away from those with less? What is more human than fearing others with different beliefs or practices, even when we know that we all have the exact same blood and guts working away inside us?

This is the stuff of humanity. Gut, sentiment, feeling, belief based on instinct and precedent instead of knowledge and understanding.

It’s taken tens of thousands of years of evolution, generation after generation of inching away from our neanderthal origins, to put some distance between our modern selves and the animal inside that wants to give into instinct at every turn. And let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we’ve traveled a great distance from that past, even in the year 2011. You, and I, our neighbors and friends and family and people we run into on the street – we’re all within inches of one another.

Maybe I’m too young to know better, but I felt like Jack Layton was about to help Canadians to take a big leap away from our primal, instinctual selves. We had already done some of it this year – not enough of it, mind you, and not enough of us, either. But more than ever before.

And I guess it’s typical and human to feel sad, and angry, and disappointed, that someone I admired and respected and wanted to follow is gone.

Gut. Sentiment. Feeling.

But I doubt Jack Layton would have wanted us to feel like this. I suspect he would have wanted us to continue on the path he’d been showing us all along, and continue to work for a better future for everyone who is Canadian, regardless of their place on the political spectrum, and not exclusively for those who were born in the right place and at the right time.

Maybe we still can.

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