[An edited version of this text was published in the Montreal Gazette, July 25th, 2012]
I almost allowed myself to forget. The article by Jack Layton’s daughter Sarah takes us back to last summer, a paradoxical time of optimism, sadness and melancholy. Between his election success on May 2nd and his passing on August 22nd, Jack Layton inspired Canadians with the positive values of Hope, Love and Optimism; values badly needed in an increasingly bitter, polarized, negative, cynical political environment. I almost allowed myself to forget that we can choose to build our society with the positive values Jack reminded us of. I almost allowed myself to be taken over by the bitterness, cynism, polarization and negativity that seems to have become the norm for societal and political discourse.
As we enter a probable provincial election here in Quebec, let’s not fall into the trap of cynism, bitterness and the de-humanizing of “the other”. Let’s take a moment to remember the optimism that Jack Layton’s goodbye letter instilled in us; where, after eight years of Republicanism with our neighbours to the south and five years of divisive cynism by our own “Republican”, Stephen Harper, we allowed our own thoughts and actions to become cynical and polarized. Each of us individually did, and subconsciously justified it with “that’s what everyone is doing”.
Ideas or people that we didn’t like, we dehumanized and vilified. There was no more room to listen to the other. We ensconced ourselves in our own Twitterverse or Facebook world, not realizing that those 600 voices we are listening to are simply a reflection of our own prejudices and world views. We ceased to listen to the other — and ceased to improve our society. We ceased to believe in Hope, Love and Optimism, because we saw them nowhere.
But Jack reminded us of them. Showed us that his success was not merely the election results he got, his success was his entire life. He lived by his ideals of Love, Hope and Optimism, always, for his entire life, and, last year, brought a nation on board and reminded it why it is great, reminded the individuals that comprise it to embrace those positive values, to live them, to build a better world.