In Canada yesterday, a great person died. Why a great auk? The great auk, as a book I’m reading tells me, was a powerful, gentle, flightless bird majestic yet unsung – spectacular and humble.
It’s not often that I feel deeply about the shifting fortunes of politicians, personal or political, but in this case I felt compelled. Jack Layton was a wonderful person, deft, convinced, clever and true. He was what politicians ought to be – sincere, strong, and humble.
I’m not entirely sure how his passing will change the politics of my country but I’m sure that his life changed them for the better. There are many politicians with whom I have disagreed. With some I respectfully disagree. With others I am loathed. With Jack, I have nothing but admiration.
He is the first or perhaps the last of a particular type of politician. Starting first in municipal politics he was not shy of the camera. But he knew how to be known – not just by the camera, but by the people who needed to know him, some of whom could only be known through the camera. It was, in a way, a necessary mistress for him.
Later, as he became the leader of a federal party, particularly of late, his always smiling face seemed to preoccupy him. The one thing that I respected the most of him was that he was not one to shy away from anger – respectful and helpful directed anger. The smile sometimes seemed to force his anger to a shadow.
There is, to my mind, altogether too much glad-handing, over-gleefulness, and condescension in politics masked by smiles and hiding anger, disgust, and duplicity. In my feeling, not by Jack. Though he smiled more than he ought to of late, I think part of it was because he was on a high of success, but also because he needed to fit the needs of the machinery – he was a politician after all. But it never seemed fake or forced. Never just for show.
It is this show that troubles me most of politics. Like the last post, one is not meant to see what goes on behind the scenes of the show. But politics is not entertainment nor is it entertaining and stake-less. For better or for worse, Jack let us in on the invisibility of politics, helped us to be heard, and used his last public efforts to inspire us to live better as a country and members of the world of humanity.
Though I never met him personally, I feel as though I have known him for nearly 2 decades. I will miss him as a person, but more so, I will miss what he was for us as humanity.