It’s odd what associations you find yourself making sometimes. When I heard on the radio that NDP leader Jack Layton had passed away during early hours this morning, the first thing I thought about, after the initial shock, was Jesus’ apostles the morning after Good Friday.
I know, on the surface that seems more than a little strange, even sacrilegious, but stay with me and I’ll explain.
On that dismal day the disciples were, in all likelihood, shell-shocked. You couldn’t have stunned them more if you bombed Jerusalem. Despite Jesus’ warnings, his death was the last thing they expected. I’m sure that they were waiting for Jesus to perform another miracle even as he hung there on the cross. When the miracle didn’t happen they were devastated. Huddled in their room they sat in disbelief wondering what the future would bring – or if there was a future at all. The question rang through each of their minds, “What now?”
Right now, thousands of NDP party members and supporters are feeling just as devastated and are asking them selves that very same question.
Most commentators and pundits across Canada will agree – the NDP accomplishments in the last election had nothing to do with policy, or a massive philosophical shift to the extreme left in Quebec – it was all about Jack Layton. Frustrated with the ineffectiveness of Gilles Duceppe, irritated by the elitist prattling of Michael Ignatieff, a large portion of the country, especially in Quebec, looked at Jack Layton and saw something they rarely saw in Canadian politics – authenticity.
That authenticity drew people to Jack Layton in droves and subsequently to the NDP. And I think most people within the party recognize that fact. That is why I’m sure many of them are feeling just as lost as the Twelve did that day so long ago. True, Jack is no messiah figure, not in the true sense of the word. But he was definitely the embodiment of the NDP dream. Jack gave them a renewed sense of determination and self-worth. He gave them a new vision for the future, a future that actually seemed possible. He gave them hope!
Now that hope has suffered a potentially fatal blow. The embodiment of the dream is gone and, unlike Jesus, Jack Layton isn’t coming back any time soon. He’s not the messiah, the foundation of a new religion, or even the second coming of Tommy Douglas. And if you think I am discrediting the gospel by comparing the two, you’ve missed my point. This isn’t about comparing Jack to Jesus, it’s about the followers of a movement. It’s about the disciples.
And the followers of Jack Layton have one more thing in common with the disciples of Jesus; whether the dream stays alive or not is up to them. The future of the NDP is in their hands now and I sincerely pray that they are up to the challenge.
As a libertarian I seldom agreed with Jack’s politics but I often admired the man. Jack Layton was an authentic politician. More importantly he was an authentic and likeable human being. Ottawa will be a better place if his example is followed by more than just the members of the NDP.