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Monday, August 22, 2011

Today I wore an orange shirt

Today I wore and orange shirt and didn't give it a second thought.  It was hanging there in my closet beside all my other shirts.  Cleaned, pressed and ready to wear, I slipped it off the hanger, onto me and headed off to work.  When I arrived at work, I signed in to my computer to check the news before my day started.  I like to read the news with my coffee before the madness begins.  I was settling into some mundane article about who know what when my wife 'pinged me' on Messenger. Three words flashed across my screen without prejudice:
"Jack Layton died."

I sat stunned for a second before I numbly replied.  I had known that he had been ill.  Hell, every person that watched a Canadian News channel had known that Jack had been ill.  He had been fighting an extremely difficult and very public battle with Cancer for months.  His campaign, in its initial stages, had been overshadowed by this serious health scare.  But with determination, vigour and an unapologetic moustache, Jack soldiered on and went to lead the NDP to a political victory, the likes of which this country had rarely seen....
...until the summer.

With Jack largely out of the public eye since the last election, it came as a crushing shock to his supporters when, at a press conference he called, a gaunt, frail-looking Jack Layton announced that the Cancer was back and he would be temporarily leaving the NDP to seek medical treatment.  And although he was positive that he would be back on Parliament Hill come September, deep down, most of us knew this might be the last we saw of Smiling Jack.

A Man of the People
I never had the privilege of meeting the man or the moustache.  When I was younger, I didn't even find him that appealing as a political candidate.  Used Car Salesman.  I think that's what I referred to him as at some point.  But it wasn't until I had been out of the country for several years that my view of the country started to shift.  I saw, what I considered to be, social inequities and injustices happening at the highest levels of our government.  I saw a right wing government being lead by a Man with his own Agenda and a long term vision that included increased military spending, reductions in the health care industry and a drive to separate the classes as far apart as possible.  I wanted/needed a better political solution.  And in marched Jack and the 'Orange Crush'.

Call his political views leftist, socialist, wispy even but he was the counter-weight to Harper's Evil Empire.  He kept the see-saw balanced.  Canadians had been constantly pushed into the corner and told "You have 1 choice or suffer the consequences in the next Federal Election".  If there's on thing that we Canadian are it is certainly NOT PUSH OVERS.  Push us, and we will push back.  While we are a peaceful people, our hands were armed with pens as we made our marks on the ballet boxes, helping push the NDP and Jack Layton into the official role of Opposition.  The Orange Crush swept across the country and left it's mark.  The future of the Party now lays in question with Jack's unfortunate passing.  I can only hope that those who voted Orange in the last election recognize that the man made the speeches, but the party makes the changes. "Hope ... is what drives New Democrats," Jack said, adding that his party "will always be the party of hope."

Today I wore an orange shirt and didn't give it a second thought; until I heard the news that a strong Political Leader, a Husband, a Father and an all around Man of the People succumbed to an illness that knows no colour, creed or political allegiance.  Cancer is a Bastard.  Jack Layton was another statistic, but by no means was he Cancer's Hostage.

"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.
All my very best,
Jack Layton"

Read the full letter here: Jack Layton's Letter to Canadians
Rest in Peace Jack. 

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