I went to Parliament Hill to file by Jack Layton’s coffin that Thursday, and it was the makeshift memorial full of cans of Orange Crush, letters of thanks and encouraging messages for the future that left me choked up and wiping tears off my cheeks. The idea of an Elmaks street art memorial piece crossed my mind and didn’t leave. It had to be done. Like most of my ideas, its birth came about in the form of two images. Layton’s mustache and NDP orange. I went looking for material and knew things were looking up when I stumbled upon a half-sheet of 1/2″ plywood behind the local trip mall. This would have to go from idea to finished product in 36 hours- my version of a no-huddle offense.
The most frustrating part of this was laying down Krylon indoor-outdoor gloss finish on top of Montana Black. The latter’s a proper artists’ paint and has a powdery finish, while the former’s gotten worse in terms of its consistency in recent years and sports a ‘tamper proof’ unremovable nozzle that sprays a blotchy wedge pattern which requires at least 2-3 coats even if you’re painting wicker furniture (Even though its cans are useless to proper street artists, Krylon’s cheap and that makes it a good friend of taggers). I laid down 3 coats of orange (10 minute drying time my ass…I spent 1 1/2 hours waiting for each coat to dry) before it hit me that Weld Bond glue could be used as an improvised primer.
Jack Layton wasn’t just a politician, he was an activist and an advocate. He was a tireless fighter for the rights of GLBT citizens, the homeless, immigrants, wounded soldiers and just about anyone else whose voice wasn’t being heard. He was an honest politician who sought to bring civility to Parliament. As his state funeral showed, he was a man who touched many lives.
He was also a powerful rallying figure for those who know that this country of ours is being steered in the wrong direction and want to turn the wheel sharply away from its present course. The enthusiasm of many who’ve vowed to carry on his tasks of activism and advocacy hasn’t quite hit me. It’s been patchy. But I’ve been also thrown into a bit of a worry-and-frustration-induced depression. Reality-induced funk, I guess.
It’s not just the slashing of Environment Canada jobs, the lack of whistleblower protection, the justification of $1 billion in expenses for the Toronto G8 summit and excusing of horrible police violence and unconstitutional mass arrests, the elimination of the Canadian Long Form Census, the blatant lie that crime rates are increasing being used to justify the construction of US-style megaprisons, the exorbitant expenditure on overpriced and untested single-engine fighter jets (I’ll say that what this country really needs in terms of home military equipment spending is a modernized Navy and Coast Guard), the “it’s the economy, stupid” claims of economic success in a petrostate with booming oil-prices (Canada’s economy has become a resource-extraction-based one), the refusal to answer media questions, “But That’s Simply Not True…”, the massive expansion of the tar sands and invite to foreign oil companies to make a mess they won’t ever have to clean up, the abyssmal conditions of Native reserves, the slashing of social spending, the falsifying of documents by a senior minister, or the Canadian Taliban-esque social conservatism that occasionally bursts through the background noise like a demented SETI signal broadcasting “Screw you all! We’re not only content with wrecking the environment but we’ll wreck all of your sinning, criminal lives to boot because that’s the way things were intended”
No, it’s not just that. It’s also the media’s cowardice in failing to press Harper even when he restricted them to five questions per day. It’s the chilling political climate this country’s taking on. It’s the rise of right-wing politicians who gut city and provincial treasuries like human locusts by slashing their tax base and handing out unscrutinized contracts to their friends.
It’s also the anger these politicans turn into a carefully directed hate and rise to power on, and it’s the fact that many among their electorate are cheering them on the entire time.
The other side never takes a day off from steering the reins in their direction. The struggle continues. We’ve got our work cut out for us. Thank you Jack. We lost a great fighter, rallier, inspiration and human being. Vires in Numeris. Let’s roll.