velvetpage: (Jack Layton)
In the interests of countering all that "Mulcair will move the party to the centre!!!1!!eleventy" stuff that's all over the media, I wrote an open letter to Mr. Mulcair. I'd appreciate a signal boost, especially from those who often discuss Canadian politics. Thanks to [ profile] thebitterguy for doing so on Twitter already.

In other news: I hope Mulcair doesn't shave his beard. I like the beard.
velvetpage: (Default)
We got back to Hamilton about an hour ago.

We started the day in Nathan Phillips Square, reading the chalk tributes and adding our own. After some street meat, we made our way to Queen and University, where we hung out with the hundreds of Toronto cyclists who were preparing to join the People’s Procession as the funeral procession passed that way. There was a samba band, and people danced to it, and there were buskers on stilts wearing orange ties. Orange was everywhere - everyone had a little bit of it and about half the crowd was wearing a t-shirt or dress of it. Mine was in the form of a ribbon in my hair (it wouldn’t stay up around my arm) and my pashmina shawl that I used as protection from the sun.

The funeral procession came down Queen St. around 1:20. We added ourselves to its back end, joining a throng of humanity celebrating and mourning together. I haven’t seen the estimates of numbers, but I can tell you that David Pecaut Square (the public space outside Roy Thomson Hall) was packed full, as were the streets nearby. Thousands and thousands of people, showing admirable courtesy and common purpose. The church next door to RTH (I think it was St. Andrews Presbyterian, but don’t quote me on that) closed its doors just as we went by - it was packed to the gills.

We wove our way through the crowd as the casket was settled at the front of RTH, and eventually found ourselves on the walkway just to the west of RTH, watching on the screen directly opposite at the other side of the square.

There we settled in to work on our sunburns and watch. The sunburn part was a blazing success. winces 45 SPF sunblock, applied an hour and a half late, does not stand up to two hours of blazing sun.

I was the only person near us who understood the French bits, so I kept bursting into applause when nobody else knew what was going on.

The funeral service itself was a celebration of Jack's life. It was also an opportunity to drive home the values that Jack lived and worked for: love, hope, optimism, social democracy, civility in politics, the ability to change the world through the power of community coming together. It was a wonderful moment of community, a single afternoon when it felt like the entire city and country felt the same way. I know that’s not true and I’m not trying to speak for people, but there on the ground, that was the feeling.

I am so glad I went. I hope Jack’s life and legacy energizes Canadians to remember that what he stood for is what we want for our nation - and that the only way to get it is to get out there and work for it, for Jack and for each and every Canadian.
velvetpage: (Canada rainbow)

For those not from around here, that's Nathan Phillips Square, the public space in front of Toronto's City Hall. Jack Layton was a councillor for the city of Toronto for years before he ran for and got the leadership of the New Democratic Party at the national level. The square is huge, and since Monday, it has been absolutely covered in chalk messages of condolence as the city of Toronto mourns one of its foremost citizens.

Of course, this all washed away in last night's storm. I predict that between now and the funeral on Saturday it will fill up again.

If he had remained with his family's traditional party - the Progressive Conservatives - or if he had continued in the party of his youth - Trudeau's Liberals - he would in all likelihood have been Prime Minister. In fact, he may have acheived the same had he lived five years longer. He had a powerful charisma paired with intense intellect and rock-solid integrity.

He was a socialist, which means he spoke for those who had no voice, for the homeless, for the poor, and for the LGBT community even before it was common for politicians to do so. He also spoke for the greater good of all citizens, advocating for improvements to infrastructure and health care and workers' rights. When American conservatives use the word "socialist" as an insult, Jack Layton is the reason Canadians look at them like they've grown horns.

His final letter to Canadians is already being quoted widely and I suspect will be among the most well-known political documents in Canada for years to come.

Wouldn't the world be a better place if all politicans thought like this: "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world." Jack Layton, 1950-2011

June 2017



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