Jack Layton, leader of the Official Opposition here in Canada, died today after a battle with cancer. He was only 61.
I say only 61 because 61 is young. To me, at least — both my parents are older than 61 and I’m only 25. One of them has had cancer and beat it already. I live terrified that it’ll come back and take her from me.
So, Jack Layton is dead. What does that mean for Canada? Canadians, on the whole, don’t get as worked up politically as Americans do. For a long time I’ve thought this a good thing, as there are fewer chances for us to look like idiots on the world stage. (No offense intended to my Yankee brethren, but it’s true.)
However, now I find my thoughts turning. I wonder if we look like bigger idiots for not getting worked up — especially when there are so many things wrong with our country. (Harper being the main one.)
Today there’s been a massive outpouring of love from Canadians across the political spectrum towards Layton’s family — most people agree that, regardless where their own votes went, Layton was a force for good in Canadian politics.
What if we could put that same energy towards our politics? Towards getting involved? Towards being activists?
I know one of the main reasons I burnt out as an activist in the States was the apathy that surrounded me. Apathy sucks away hope, like a leech on your heart. When I lived in the States, I was very outspoken, politically. My peers were not. Eventually I couldn’t handle it anymore — I didn’t have the energy to go on because it seemed pointless when no one else my age seemed to care. How can one person change the world?
I know the tide has been turning in Canada with regards to political energy and investment — especially among young people — towards us being more interested, more involved, more energetic. This is a good thing. We cannot let the death of Jack extinguish our hope for the future — we must listen to the words he gives us in his last letter.
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.
Layton was one of the good guys. I may not personally identify as NDP, but I voted that way several times. I believed he could and would lead us to a better future.
We’re half-way there. Let’s not let his death put out our fires. Let us honor him by continuing to get riled up, by continuing to be political, by continuing to be activists, by taking charge and changing our future.
It is our future, as young Canadians. We need to make it something we want to live in. No one else is going to do it for us.
Rest in peace, Jack. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us. We won’t let the fire die. We’ll keep fighting, and we’ll keep our porch lights on — on our houses and in our hearts.