Many Canadians are deeply saddened by the death of Jack Layton. And I too have been affected by the untimely death of a committed social democrat who galvanized the feelings of a nation in the midst of an era of increasing despair, cynicism, greed, and corporatism. Short of being an empty-hearted, soulless, monster, how could one not be affected by the life and death of a man who was so optimistic, so guileless, so energizing, so compassionate, and so heartfelt?
But most of us are not directly affected by Mr. Layton's death. Though my spouse met him on a few occasions, I never even saw the man in person. And the truth is, personal mourning is the privilege of Mr. Layton's friends and loved-ones. They will all mourn in a profound and personal way, and spend their lives trying to put this life and death into perspective the same way I have struggling so hard to cope with my father's death. It is a struggle that will not end.
But outside of the personal mourning that those close to Mr. Layton will endure in the coming months and years, is our collective sadness. And a fundamental part of that sadness is a profound and genuine frustration. It is a frustration that we don't like to express in words, but it is one that always seems to be with us. It is the frustration that we can't help but thinking that so many of those who fight so tirelessly for justice are cut down in their prime while those who actively thwart the cause of justice go merrily on. We know, at some level, that it is not really true; that the good and the bad all live by equal odds or, as the bible tells us, the rain falls on the just and the unjust. But at these times we cannot help but think that the odds are stacked in evil's favor. That since it is easier to destroy than it is to build, and since real compassion is steeped in sensitivity, the good really do die young.
Jack Layton was taken from us too soon. I know other good people who have been taken too soon. But then with good people, any time is too soon. If Jack Layton died at 90 years old, it would have been too soon because such people are what Bertold Brecht called the 'indispensables,' those who work their whole lives to make the lives of all of us better.