if you had one last thing to say to the world and you knew a lot of people would listen, what would you say?

I don’t let politics get on my blog much.  Once in awhile I might let go a little rant on this space, because in real life I have strong opinions about social and political concerns, and everyone who knows me knows pretty much what my stand on things is.  That stand hasn’t changed much in the 40 or so years since I started to pay attention.

But I decided a long time ago that this space isn’t going to be about people I don’t like.  And I’m sorry to say, I don’t like most politicians, and I sure as hell don’t like what politics has become.

Public service is an honourable calling.  Politicking turned it ugly.  These days you rarely see an elite politician behaving honourably; it’s all about the win.  Politics has become a tool of power, and those who get it will do anything to hang on to it, even if it means fucking over the people who have hired them to govern.  The recent debacle over the debt ceiling in the US is a spectacular example of that. 

For one day here at home today it wasn’t ugly.  Today politicians of all stripes and people of all beliefs mourned the loss of Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party, who died of cancer early this morning.  Despite that he looked emaciated and weak last time he showed up on TV a month ago, everyone was shocked. 

Jack was widely liked and respected for his principles and determination.  He was fearless and unrelenting in his message and people were inspired by that.  You never felt like he was playing you.  Don’t think this popularity came up in his death; in the past four years, he took a party that clung to a few measly seats, hanging on the brink of irrelevance, to one that swept past the most dominant party in our history to become the official opposition for the first time in history.

Jack made us remember people like Tommy Douglas and Ed Broadbent and how they connected to people; he made us look past the conservative rhetoric and think “well yeah, it CAN be done.”  Jack made us remember that it was the NDP that shaped a large part of who we believe we are.  He was another feisty NDP leader who rose up out of seemingly nothing against the bigger, older, louder, more moneyed old school parties.  The right and extreme right parties in this country might have merged their money and forces and won a majority, but we yeah we also got an opposition with balls to keep them in check.  We sure felt a lot better than we would have if the lamo liberals had taken that spot. 

This afternoon my dear New York pal Sheryl posted on my facebook: “I wish we had more like him here.”  I replied that I thought it was sad that politicians who actually inspire people are rare anywhere. 

Jack’s not getting on my blog because he’s dead.  He’s getting on my blog because of the message he left with Canadians in life, and in a letter he wrote in these last dying days:

“…consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

That’s the kind of political messaging that gets on my blog.

Now go say something nice to your neighbour.

(A country coming together to celebrate a true public servant and inspiring leader: beautiful thing number fifty nine.) 


  1. Reply
    Reluctant Blogger August 23, 2011

    Yes, I was sad to hear he had died. It is rare that you find a good heart in politics. It is onlly 8.53am and I have already said something encouraging to my neighbour so I think that is a good start.

  2. Reply
    Little hat August 23, 2011

    Sorry to tell you Jenn but I didn’t read your full blog. I went and read about Jack layton’s career and then read his letter to his beloved friends colleagues and countrymen. We need more men and women like him. People who not only believe in the capacity of communities to effect positive change but also who simply love life and love his people and who are prepared to act and lead. In australia we have too many politicians and not enough visionaries – though I am convinced that many of our best leaders hold strong and positive values but are hamstrung by the party political system and the need to be cautious in the presence of the media for fear of being misrepresented and crucified. PS I’ll email soon.

  3. Reply
    Jennifer August 23, 2011

    A great start, I’d say! Thanks RB!

  4. Reply
    Jennifer August 23, 2011

    Well Steve I must say I’m glad you didn’t finish reading my blog, and I’m glad you read his letter and tributes to him. (Yes, we do need more like him. His wife, incidentally, is the MP in my riding.)
    We have the same situation in Canada. Politicians are required to tow the party line, so really, it doesn’t matter what the constituents say. In the conservative party, they’re not even allowed to speak publicly in the media without party direction and when the liberals were in office, the cabinet members HAD to vote onside with the government (again, despite what their constituents wanted) or be sent to the back benches.
    Yep… some things are the same all over…

  5. Reply
    Selma August 25, 2011

    I don’t know him at all but it is very sad when a person of his calibre leaves us so suddenly. What a shame. We need more people like him in politics and in life generally instead of all the ratbags we are stuck with. What a loss.

  6. Reply
    Jennifer August 26, 2011

    A shame indeed. He had just this year achieved a place (official opposition) where he could actually affect some change. And a loss, for sure. The response here to his death has been amazing. There has been a constant stream of people showing up at City Hall here in Toronto, contributing to the huge array of chalked messages on the square… a giant rainbow tribute. Where rain has washed it away, it got replaced with more colourful messages.

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