The death and the rising

Michael Valpy and James McKee consider the reaction to Jack Layton’s death.

It’s been suggested the deep emotional response was to the suddenness of his passing, or to the cruel irony of death striking him down while the applause still rang out for his grand electoral success. If that’s all that was involved, it would be a shallow saga, soon forgotten. Something struck a chord across the country – not all of it mind – but in the big cities where progressive voices have long felt comfortable. It struck, that chord, as a public manifestation of a collective worry about what Mr. Layton’s loss — Jack’s loss — meant for so many Canadians’ values, the not-quite-taken-shape articulation of people who feel threatened, who see themselves governed by politicians holding alien values, beliefs and behaviour

It’s a chord of protest against a domain that doesn’t want libraries, social housing or a long form census but only lower taxes and more fighter jets. A chord of resentment sounded by people who have felt themselves unable to self-identify as progressives in the way Jack Layton consistently did, with an unrepentant pride in his beliefs.