I admit it. I’m obsessed.
Like thousands upon thousands of Canadians, I was very moved by Jack Layton’s death and his funeral. Although I wasn’t able to watch the funeral as it was happening, I’ve now watched a recording of it in its entirety three times. Given that it’s nearly two hours long, this is pretty extreme for me. While it’s probably evidence I should “get a life,” the reason I’m drawn to keep watching it, two weeks after the fact, is because I find it such a source of hope and optimism.
I’ve never been one to sign up for any political party, so it’s not because of a rigid allegiance to the NDP. In fact, it’s not because of any single reason.
It’s because of many:
The way so many Canadians showed unabashed love and respect for a politician, contradicting the cynicism and apathy that permeates our political system.
The way Jack Layton was a civil and open politician, not sinking to the lowest levels of attack, secrecy and bafflegab that are common in politics. The way he modelled what so many Canadians clearly want from their politicians. He was a good listener, he “walked the talk” of his principles, caring for the environment, standing up for the homeless, fighting violence against women, showing respect and encouragement to youth – and more.
The inclusivity of the funeral was symbolic of what Layton wanted for Canada, and, really, what I want for Canada. From its beginning with a First Nations blessing and then ranging from a prayer from the Qur’an to a French song, Croire, to a minister who happened to be homosexual leading the service – it was inclusive and respectful of so many.
It was also a funeral that celebrated the music, joy and playfulness of the human spirit.
It was a funeral resonating with kindness, hope, equality, civility, optimism and, as Stephen Lewis said in his stirring speech, generosity. It was a funeral that, despite its NDP foundation, transcended politics, showing that you don’t have to be any particular political stripe to pursue values of kindness and decency to all.
It was also a funeral with a challenge, a challenge for people to keep pursuing the Canada they really want. Layton’s oft-quoted message was, “Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.”
Because many politicians viewed the funeral and the response, Canada-wide, to Layton’s death, my hope is that this might be the spark to kindle a new era, where a bigger vision of the country and the world will dominate over mean-spirited, short-sighted and greedy battles for power. I hope this spirit of civility and generosity will prevail in issues affecting Canadians at all levels. I hope it will prevail in politics and, with a municipal election approaching, in the race for local government.
In the meantime, I might just watch the funeral again, as long as it continues to inspire me. To paraphrase Layton, it’s far better to feel hopeful and optimistic than to fall victim to cynicism and fear. Feel free to join me.