- Hon Jack Layton (1950-2011)
I don't often talk about politics on this blog. This isn't a current affairs blog, and I tend towards the private with my political, spiritual or philosophical leanings - my authorial arena is public, while those things are personal. I don't even believe in being a card-carrying partisan.
However, when I'm talking about the recently passed Jack Layton, I'm not really talking about politics. Or, rather, I'm talking about something that goes a bit beyond, or above, politics.
I'm talking about the Jack spirit.
It's about optimism. It's about hope. It's about acting in an earnest and positive manner, without being fearful that people will scorn your sunshine. It's about daring to be a happy person.
Jack Layton was a fighter. He believed in what he did. But he wasn't nasty. He was determined.
I don't think many people could survive in public service for very long if they were total cynics, but Jack went so far beyond this that the only word to describe him is indomitable. Even when it became clear that he was not going to win his fight with cancer, he looked towards the future. He took the time to write a letter, urging other cancer patients to retain hope, urging young Canadians to keep their energy, urging all Canadians to believe there is a better Canada. Like his political-forefather Tommy Douglas, Jack reminded us, as he has always reminded us, that it's never too late to fight for a better world.
Jack Layton's smile, the subject of much public ribbing here in Canada, is his legacy. Disarming and friendly, it often led people to underestimate Jack - yet, he went on to drag the NDP from the "third party option" to the opposition, something that many didn't believe possible. Jack showed us one can go about one's work both cheerfully and intelligently, and maybe even better than those who mistake rudeness for savvy.
So, no - I'm not really talking about politics. My writing has always been about optimism. About how the kind and the cheerful are underestimated, and the power of positivity over negativity. How hope, an undervalued gift in a harsh world, does have the power to heal and bring about better things.
It's okay to declare yourself an optimist. Don't be embarrassed.
In my winter 2012 project, the hero is a small town Canadian politician, a boundlessly energetic and tireless champion for a better world. I've renamed him Jack. It's only a little romance, but it's the best tribute I can offer.
So, farewell, Jack. Thanks for everything - especially the reminder.