Sunday, August 28, 2011

Testament in the Throes of Death

Christie Blatchford got herself into hot water last week over her remarks on the death of Jack Layton . Her Tuesday’s (23/8) column in National Post took issue with the CBC lack of sense of measure in covering the opposition leader’s passing and the letter to Canadians composed either on Jack Layton’s deathbed by himself or near it with his collaboration and consent. Her inbox quickly became flooded by email with assorted abuse, demonization and laments from Jack’s worshippers who either never read the letter or quickly forgot what was “better” despite the Peace Tower in Ottawa chiming John Lennon’s Imagine while the great sage laid in state on the Hill.

I like Christie’s writing a lot. Like Jack, she has spunk and calls them as she sees them. And she has a keen sense in smelling humbug which of course makes her a comrade-in-arms. I agree with Christie that the letter was extraordinary sample of bad taste though the question remains on the timing of her column. My sense tells me it could have waited until Jack was in the ground. At any rate, what the column said definitely needed to be said.

Someone should have had the sense to try to talk Jack – presumably not as sharp in his dying hours - out of addressing all Canadians. It would be read as vainglory (yes, Christie is right), an essentially undemocratic pining for a one-party perfect society. What about other people, other Canadians, whose politics were not Jack’s ? Would they not feel that this upsizing of Jack post-mortem was going a tad too far and that the sense of tragic loss was being cynically misused for partisan ends ? It was poor judgment to think that perhaps all would be shamed into silence.

Stephen Lewis said in his eulogy of Jack Layton that the “testament in the throes of death” was really a manifesto for social democracy, which earned rousing applause and all the guests in Thompson Hall stood up to pay respect. One could hardly believe this was a funeral. It is sad to see the NDP so hard off it can’t think of the death of its leader in terms other than its political utility. But in one sense Lewis had it right: Jack Layton’s testament is a political manifesto. It was simply misaddressed to all Canadians instead to the rank and file of his own party, where it belongs. Surely, it would have been read by many other Canadians. Surely, some of them would have been inspired to sign up for Jack’s vision.

Of course, there is always the loony element which idealist dreamers seem to have a great success in awakening. The sad news about Jack spread fast in Ottawa last week. But one unforgettable moment that describes everything about the ueber-grief-fest for me were two well-fed women in their twenties tearing up over the letter which one of them read aloud at a local Tim Hortons. When I walked in they were in the middle even though no-one around them seemed to be interested in more than their daily dose of caffeine and sugar. But as the reciter went “love is better than anger, hope is better than fear, …..”, the manager who evidently knew the mood of the Canadians in the joint better busted the sermon “….and two donuts are better than one…..girls can you take this out some place else ?”

No comments: