How Dare Jack Layton Make Canadians Feel Hopeful Again!

by matttbastard

David J. Climenhaga, responding to National Post columnist Christie Blatchford’s now-infamous cranky, contrarian reaction to Canada’s outpouring of love and admiration for Socialist cur Taliban Jack Layton (HISSSSSSS!):

[T]he offending column is far from the worst piece Blatchford has written, and it makes a good point that many of us who loved and respected Layton can surely agree with, or at least concede contains some truth. Its other arguments would better be dismissed with a shrug than with obscenity and imprecation.

I bothered to read this piece only because I came across some of the angry reaction on social media sites. I turned to it with a sick feeling, because I expected from the lead-up to read something truly disgusting, like the odious efforts of Calgary Sun city editor Dave Naylor. I finished it and concluded we should all take a deep breath.

The chief knock against Blatchford’s effort seems to be that she called Layton a thoroughly political creature, and assailed his moving deathbed letter to Canadians with such uncharacteristically big words as “sophistry” and “vainglorious.”

Well, OK, the latter part of this opinion is graceless, even cheesy — exactly as we have come to expect of almost any Postmedia columnist. But really, so what? It does not seem appropriate to me to respond to this kind of drivel by calling its author a “heartless cow,” or worse, or wishing on her the same horrible fate that befell Layton.

Moreover, I think most of us can agree that Blatchford’s silly allegation of sophistry and vainglory is merely a typical response, and possibly a heartfelt one, by a Tory sympathizer who must have fretted deeply about the implications of Layton’s successful appeal to the better angels of our Canadian nature. Even our dour prime minister seems to have been improved by Layton’s sunny vision, which in some circles might be seen as evidence of miraculous powers!

While making some valid points regarding Tory anxiety over Layton’s significant posthumous power, Climenhaga misses the mark: it isn’t Blatch’s petty attack on Layton that most rankles, at least to me. Rather, it’s her arrogant, contemptuous attempt to police the natural reactions of ordinary Canadians to the passing of someone they loved and respected. As far as Blatch is concerned, the massive, spontaneous public display of emotion and affection from coast to coast (including QC — thanks Jack!) is unseemly and worthy of ridicule, another pop-cult spectacle of collective (HISSSSS!) hysteria a la Princess Di.

Now, people tend to get rather prickly when told they are grieving in an inappropriate fashion — hence the vast, vocal outcry. However, I highly doubt anyone at PostMedia is crying. One could argue that all the attention afforded to Blatch, overwhelmingly negative though it may be,  = mission accomplished.

Trolling is, after all, an art.

Regardless, I’m sure le bon Jack could not care less if his final words caused Canada’s fav crotchety wingnut Agony Aunt to throw a public shit-fit. As Climenhaga rightly notes, in this Layton too could claim the mission accomplished mantle with as much, if not more, legitimacy as she (and if the stale mother-son YYZ vaudeville act of Babs and Johnny Kay doesn’t provoke a hearty chortle of righteous satisfaction from beyond this mortal coil, well, I guess I just don’t know Jack).

Don’t get me wrong — yours truly frequently disagreed with Jack Layton over the years. A lot. But, like a vast multitude of my fellow Canuckistanians (including apostate NDP icon Judy Rebick, another longtime Layton foe on the left), I ultimately found myself overcome with a sense that we had lost a statesman, truly a Great Canadian (caps and all).

Ottawa must have been reading the same tea leaves, hence the state funeral offer.

Still, the next time a Champagne Socialist from Danforth dares to die an insanely popular, highly revered public figure, everyone first make sure to check in with Christie Blatchford and co. for instructions on proper grieving etiquette.

Oh, and none of that peace and love hippie-dippy sidewalk chalk bullshit — politics is for cynics and sociopaths goddammit.

Image: Jackman Chiu, Flickr

RIP Jack Layton: His Death Is Only The Beginning

by matttbastard

In the end, we should have known it was fanciful, even selfish, to expect Jack Layton to make it back to Parliament in the Fall.

The man who, weeks ago, stood before a stunned nation to announce he was stepping aside (temporarily, it was insisted)  to once again battle cancer, gaunt and wholly drained of the vigour that defined his upbeat, energetic campaign style, was not the same one who, just one short month prior, had almost single-handedly carried the NDP to its best electoral finish in party history.

This was someone who, if not at Death’s door, was certainly on its footpath.

But before Jack the Fighter became Jack the Martyr, he was Le Bon Jack, the man who, in the words of CP’s John Ward, “slew the Bloc Quebecois and saw the long-dominant Liberal party reduced to a battered hulk” while simultaneously bringing his once-terminal, perpetually-marginalized democratic socialist party into the national mainstream (and, in the process, welcomed Quebec back to the Federal scene after nearly two full decades in the political wilderness). As  James Laxer rightly notes, “When [Layton became NDP leader, he took a party that had seen better days and led it to become a force that can win the next election. His breakthrough in Quebec is historic, a transformative event in Canada’s political history. “

Over the next several days we’re going to be buffeted by many heartfelt tributes to Layton and his legacy. Conversely, we’ll no doubt witness insincere remembrances from those who, quite frankly, despised the man and his pragmatically progressive politics, but cynically know it bodes well to avoid speaking ill of the revered dead. We’re also going to see an increasingly histrionic debate over what to do about iterim leader Nycole Turmel, the party’s newly-minted Quebec rump, and its overall future.

And though Dippers and progressives deserve time to grieve (and Layton is indeed worthy of memorializing) we mustn’t shy away from these contentious issues, lest the momentum that propelled the NDP to historic gains is further halted as the party tries to reorient itself in anticipation of the post-Layton era.

Just to help kick off the frenzy of posthumous speculation re: What Happens Next, here’s a brief excerpt from Warren Kinsella’s latest Sun Maida [sic] column:

For [Jack Layton's] NDP – because it was his NDP – sad and bad times lay ahead. There is no possibility, none, that they can ever expect to maintain what they achieved with Jack Layton Nor can the party’s blasé dismissal of a union with the Liberals be allowed to remain unchallenged. Our democracy will suffer if the Harper government is not facing an effective Opposition. All of us – Stephen Harper included – need the NDP and the Liberals to consider the gravity of the moment, and abandon their pride and hubris. Now, more than ever, progressives need to come together for the good of Canadian democracy.

Whatever your feelings on uniting the Canadian left (and let it be clear, I lean towards Kinsella’s position that only a strong, united centre-left opposition can ever hope to topple the Harpercons), one thing is undeniable: Jack Layton quite literally died to get the NDP — and the Canadian progressive centre-left — to this point; now it’s up to progressive activists, regardless of party affiliation, to continue the fight that ultimately took his life.

Update: And as if anticipating renewed calls to reopen the unification debate following his passing, here’s Layton, from his already-legendary final letter:

 There will be those who will try to persuade [NDP members] to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

So, at least we know what Jack wanted (which doesn’t necessarily make it right, but…).

Something kinda like this:

So, let’s do it.

Layton photo: mattjiggins, flickr

Sidewalk photo: Paul Dewar, Yfrog