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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Goodbye Jack

Like so many of you, I am saddened by Jack Layton's death. Our movement lost a friend and allie. Jack was a great feminist, a great believer in women. He knew deep in his heart that the old saying, "When one is oppressed, all are oppressed" was true.

It was a pleasure to see that Dr. Morgentaler attended the funeral. It felt good to see him there.  It felt good to listen to the eulogy by Stephen Lewis. If felt good to have the things that I stand for affirmed so publicly and to have so many people seemingly in agreement.

As another old saying goes, it is the best of times and the worst of times. Worst because we have lost a great leader, best because we see such obvious evidence of the impact we are having.  That impact is surely in part, even in large part, the result of the charisma, energy, generosity and optimism of Jack himself. But it is more than that. The movement he represented so well has made progress. It has laid bare the flaws in capitalism, in corporatism, in hard right wing policies and given us another vision. It is the best of times because in the true spirit of social democracy, we know the movement is more than one man. He had help, and lots of it. We will search our grassroots, our youth, the new and energized MPs in Quebec and throughout all of Canada and find in them our next leaders.  And those of us who are merely voters are here too, offering our support, our input, and adding our dreams to the vision.

We've been told for too long that our beliefs are somehow pathetic, that to bleed for other hearts is weak, that to take less so others can have more is inexplicable, that social democracy is the stuff of childish dreamers. We have been told this by those who want to justify their own power and greed, justify the fact that they have taken more than they deserve, more than anyone deserves, justify their cold heartedness in the face of the suffering of others. We see through them. Everyone who felt the loss of Jack in some way sees through them.

Jack's letter to Canadians says it all, and says it much better than I can. If you haven't read it, read it. I am particularly moved by his encouragement to other cancer patients, his concern that his death might make them lose faith in their own capacity to recover. Having been a cancer patient myself in the past, I can imagine the selflessness, the generosity, that brought him to pen those words as he was dying. And I thank him for that. Because when anyone we know dies of cancer, we inevitably go to that place, that terrible dark place. He knew we would.

So he reminded us to be optimistic, that optimism is always better, not just when coping with illness, but in every situation, even in politics.

Thanks Jack. For everything.

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