Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On Jack Layton...

I join everybody in offering my condolences to the family of Jack Layton for his passing. I did not agree with many of his political policies, however I certainly can agree that he did love Canada and continually acted with the best intentions to improve the lives of many Canadians.

I wanted to also share some thoughts on the more interesting things I read over the last couple of days...

  • Carly Weeks in the Globe and Mail takes a different angle on the death, choosing to argue that Layton did not lose a battle against cancer. Instead he died of cancer.

    When you think of this, it gives you pause. It's too easy to use the analogy; it's very common and in fact it is the terminology that Layton used himself to describe what laid ahead for him.

    Obviously this isn't what anybody intends to imply. Using the battle/fight analogy is meant to honour the person, not denigrate them. However, that is the underlying message. It's just not the message that you think of when you first are offering your support to the patient, or when you are the patient. The problem, as is pointed out by Mike Marqusee in the Globe article, is when the cancer "defeats" the patient. If the cancer ends up "winning", does that mean the patient did not fight hard enough? Were they not good enough to beat cancer?

    Sometimes it's necessary to take a step back and consider the words that you are using. Even though you might only intend one way of interpretation, they can have unintended consequences. I know that when somebody close to me (or even I) faces cancer, I will offer my support in a different manner than the battle analoy.

  • The National Post lets us know that the State Funeral for Jack Layton is unprecedented. The thing is that having an Opposition Leader die while still in office is pretty well unprecedented.

    Ignoring the political implications that the Post covers, it's just the right thing to do for a politician whose popularity seemed to be increasing only 3 months prior.

  • Christie Blatchford found herself in a bit of trouble for a column that ended up on the internet on Monday evening. In it, she criticized the coverage of Layton's letter to Canadians, which was fair game. The coverage and commentary about the "extraordinary" letter did seem to be over the top at times and probably needed to have a bit of air let out of the balloon. The problem came when she criticized the contents of the letter and Layton's intentions.

    A significant figure dying is always difficult. You have to balance having respect for those who are mourning the death, while also presenting a balanced view of their life. I'm not sure if Blatchford felt as though the scale was extremely skewed towards the praise of Layton and felt she needed to try to balance the coverage all by herself, but whatever her intentions, she failed at them. By putting this column out so soon after Layton's death, any insight she had was buried by the argument over her sensitivity towards the mourners of Jack Layton.

    As for her criticisms of the letter, I tend to end up agreeing with Chris Selley, who notes:
    If you find the letter over-earnest and platitudinous, well, at least it’s genuinely over-earnest and platitudinous. Would you have preferred he’d revealed it was all an act?

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