Posts Tagged: new democratic party

pissing people off with peace love and understanding

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I'm sorry to be bringing this up again, because I know that to most of the rest of the world, Canadian national concerns are not sexy.  I mean, we don’t have leadership candidates feeding us crazy-interesting sound bites like: hurricane Irene is god’s wrath at our spending too much money on our people.  (Seriously, I read that today.  Is that true?)  Our leaders are just not that interesting, even when they lie.  Anyway, for the most part, we don't care about your disinterest.

But I am compelled to write about the events of the last week because I think they're really significant. These events have triggered an expression of the desire in us to know a different public reality.  In this video you'll see the power of a message perpetuating that desire, from the only politician in the room who was dead.

Find in the video below a former politician and current humanitarian delivering that powerful message of hope and encouragement.  The message pissed a whole bunch of people off, but it inspired a whole bunch more.  

If you’re not Canadian, there are some things you should know before you watch:

This was a state funeral.  Jack Layton was the leader of Canada's official opposition to the government.  Our biggest dignitaries are all there. The Queen is represented by the Governor General. I make note that it's a state funeral because you might not think so seeing all that clapping and standing and cheering.

You also need to know that the reaction in that room is not just representative of Layton's party supporters who were present.  Thousands had collected outside and along the route of the funeral procession.  People showed up to City Hall in Toronto and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and other cities to pay personal tribute all week. 

You need to know that everybody knew how sick Jack was, but when he died everybody was shocked anyway. Nobody anticipated the reaction to this loss because Canadians just don't act this way. 

What I see in this eulogy, and in the response to it, and in the response to Jack's death in general, is that I am not alone in my rejection of the anger and ugliness that has permeated our social and political realms.  What I see are people that are finished with it; we don't want to be held apart anymore.

Please watch; it’s Stephen Lewis, one of the most gifted and passionate orators alive, paying homage to a man's life work and ideals.  You'll be glad you did.

(And if you do I promise to shut up about it.)

(The Canadian politcs part, not the peace love and understanding part.)

 

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.

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