Human nature can be pretty perverse, and one of the more twisted aspects of it is that we can’t resist turning over the occasional rock, hoping to be stunned and grossed out and aggrieved by what’s crawling in the slime beneath. This truism is amplified in the Internet Age, when we run around lifting rocks at top speed for the express purpose of finding something to make us shriek and sweat and pound our keyboards red-faced in righteous fury, describing to all and sundry the scum-ridden underside of whatever rock was upended. But on a day when Canada mourned the loss of a political leader of integrity and optimism, I was hoping we wouldn’t bother looking; or if we couldn’t resist looking, that there wouldn’t be much to find under the rocks and we’d have the class to ignore what little there was.
Sure, I looked too: I’m only human. But what I observed was surprising and heartening. The prevailing sentiment around the conservative blogosphere yesterday was the same stunned sadness we felt on this side of the spectrum. When I checked the Blogging Tories aggregator (I told you, I’m only human), of the 18 Layton-related posts on the front page, all but one was civil and respectful. Some suggest that it’s rank hypocrisy coming from people who vilified the man in life, and in a way I guess that’s true. But death by cancer transcends ideology: like a terrorist attack, it plays no favourites, and when we witness it we instinctively give a primordial shudder and pull closer together. So I’m willing to believe the sentiments were sincere, if momentary.
For sure there were a few reptile-brained scum who couldn’t resist the urge to joke and smear and poke with sharp sticks. But it was a relatively small minority unworthy of attention on such a day and I wasn’t sure why anyone would choose to lavish it on them. It’s not like they were representative of the whole, or even the majority, of the so-called “Right”. Maybe I’m as optimistic as Jack was, but the vast majority of what I read yesterday confirmed to me that it’s possible to vigorously disagree with someone’s political ideology while recognizing their dedication to making Canada a better place. And that notion, while it may not be as entertaining as the spittle-flecked ravings of a few classless jerks, is far more deserving of attention.
(Having said all that, I haven’t looked around much today but I wouldn’t be surprised if the discourse had already started sliding back into its former slime pit of venom and vitriol, much of it directed against Jack Layton himself, thus completing the Official Period of Civility.)