About that State Funeral

When the PM offered a state funeral for Jack Layton, I suspect most were mildly surprised since the protocol dictates that state funerals are reserved for Prime Ministers, Governor-Generals and Cabinet Ministers.  Nobody else, Opposition Leaders included, makes the cut… unless the Prime Minister says they do.  But under the circumstances a state funeral just seemed like the right thing to do, and Harper rose to the occasion, in my view, admirably.  And according to this Angus Reid poll, most Canadians across the political board agreed with his decision.

Enter the Partisan Knobs, in all their brainless, furious, spittle-flecked glory.  (You all know what a Partisan Knob is, right?)

Shortly after the state funeral was announced it became the focus of feverish discussion by Partisan Knobs on both sides of the aisle.  Some on the right argued peevishly that Layton hadn’t “earned” it, something I seriously can’t imagine them saying about a Conservative opposition leader extended the same courtesy, but oh well.

Meanwhile, over on the port side of the Good Ship Blogosphere, those in the throes of a particularly virulent strain of the brain-rotting contagion known as “Harper Derangement Syndrome” still speculate darkly about Harper’s Real Motive — the “Hidden State Funeral Agenda”.  Because obviously there had to be some odious ulterior motive: Harper surely couldn’t have done it because he’s a human being capable of sharing a sense of loss with his fellow Canadians and occasionally, having the class to Do The Right Thing.  Nope.  The prevailing consensus among the HDS-afflicted is that Harper offered the state funeral under duress — it was either State Funeral or Angry Backlash, take your pick, Harpie… even though nobody expected a state funeral until Harper offered it.  Huh?  Such is the absurd conspiratorial logic of the Partisan Knob in full frenzied flower.

I’m no fan of Harper’s, but I do believe he offered the state funeral simply  because it was the right thing to do.  Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in awhile, and if it’s also a good political move in that it softens the edges of his cold, geeky image, so what?  After all, it’s possible to disagree with someone without envisioning them as some grotesque and depraved hybrid of Hitler, Darth Vader and the heartless Tin Man (and it’s been my experience that those who insist on doing this, whatever their political bias, are usually covering for weak arguments).

When Jack Layton wrote about love being better than anger, there was no asterisk beside it with a footnote adding “*Except when it comes to Conservatives”.  Something to think about, maybe.

22 Responses to “About that State Funeral”

  1. 2 Luna Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Of course you are correct. However, it is terribly hard to think of someone who has never shown any sort of decency in the history of ever, doing something decent. And so the understandable, but likely incorrect, reaction is “What’s his agenda?”

    The other problem is that in today’s politics, admitting that the other side has done *anything* right, is a show of weakness. It shouldn’t be. But it is.

  2. 3 JJ Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 9:26 am

    it is terribly hard to think of someone who has never shown any sort of decency in the history of ever, doing something decent.

    Perspective is everything 😉 I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people who voted for Harpie could think of a decent thing or two that he’s done, although those same people might have trouble coming up with anything decent that was done by Trudeau or Chretien. (To read some of the rightie blogs, Trudeau singlehandedly destroyed Canada and turned it into an unrecognizable nation known as “Trudeaupia”.)

    The other problem is that in today’s politics, admitting that the other side has done *anything* right, is a show of weakness.

    It’s also Dumb and Primitive. Unfortunately its much easier to broad-brush and demonize ideological opponents than it is to hear them out, have your own ideas challenged, and consider their ideas on individual merit. (That said, I’m referring to valid ideas here, not invalid concepts like bigotry etc.)

  3. 4 Peter Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 9:52 am

    it is terribly hard to think of someone who has never shown any sort of decency in the history of ever, doing something decent

    C’mon, Luna, wasn’t it nice and decent of him not to implement that hidden agenda that so terrified you folks for years? Of course, I guess he doesn’t get any credit for that if he never had it in the first place.

  4. 5 JJ Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 9:57 am

    I just want to be part of the solution

  5. 6 deBeauxOs Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 10:02 am

    C’mon Peter, who would have guessed that supporting the privatization of prisons and passing legislation to fill those prisons with more First Nations folks, homeless people, the mentally ill and other Canadians falling through the shredded social net, was an item on Harper’s agenda?

  6. 7 Peter Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 11:58 am

    deBO, there was nothing hidden about that agenda, although I admit your colourful description of it wasn’t part of the published platform . I’m referring to repealing medicare, gay marriage, abolishing democracy, etc. But, anyway, let’s not start. After five years, I’ve concluded his supporters and opponents aren’t even talking about the same man.

  7. 8 JJ Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    With all due respect (’cause you know i love ya♥ 😉 ) I don’t think that was part of Harpie’s Hidden Agenda since it was one of the things he ran on in the last election: Tough On Crime.

    I also doubt Harper has any pending legislation ordering prisons to be filled with 1st Nations, homeless & mentally ill — statistically it works out that way because of economics. The nature of crimes done by the economically disadvantaged makes them low hanging fruit for the cops, so they get busted more than anyone else. It’s easier to bust someone dealing crack on a street corner than it is to bust some corporate hotshot for insider trading. (Also, the guy who uses legal aid is more likely to go to prison than the guy who can drop $100K on a High-Pressure Lawyer who golfs with the Crown.)

    At some point The Hidden Agenda will be revealed! Maybe after Harper is crowned King of Harpercanada!

  8. 9 JJ Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    That was my impression also, that the Hidden Agenda was mostly social issues, which is why he backs off when one of those issues comes up.

    If he doesn’t break down and start implementing the Hidden Agenda soon, we may have to start calling it “the Extremely Well-Hidden Agenda”.

  9. 10 Scott Tribe Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    I think some of the lashing out by right-wing folks like Ezra and Blatch is because they fear Layton’s death will be a rallying point for progressives to coalesce around.

  10. 11 Bleatmop Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Well written JJ. It’s a classy move to give Jack a state funeral. He could have been spiteful, he could have been arrogant, he could have ignored it, he could have done a lot of things. What he did do is give Jack a state funeral. I’ll judge Harper by his actions and in this case he gets full marks.

  11. 12 JJ Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Frankly, I found very little lashing out, and those who did were exactly who you’d expect — a few jerks. Overall, the conservative response to Layton’s passing was very respectful. When I see the hysterical hyperbole suggesting that “the right” responded as one big amalgam of hate, I can only 🙄

    That said, i agree that the ones who did respond ignorantly were doing so out of fear. Though later on, I’m pretty sure they were doing it just to enjoy the exploding heads.

  12. 13 JJ Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Even a blind squirrel… 😉
    It won’t do anything to warm me up to Harper’s policies, but it does make me think a little more highly of the man himself.

  13. 14 Peter Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 5:26 am


    You’ve got guts, my dear. I hope you aren’t going to lose too many virtual friends over this.

    One of the memes that the left side of the blogosphere has repeated so many times over the past five years that they now just take it for granted is that everything he does is motivated by personal hate. It’s no secret he stands for reducing government’s involvement in our lives and its consequent control and tax needs. The justifcation for this is general and ideological, and pretty much every Western leader is on board to some degree. That inevitably means cuts, but I’ve noticed that it is just assumed he is directing them all personally out of irrational contempt for the benficiaries. Cut a scientific programme, it’s because he hates science. Cut IANA’s budget–he hates indigenous peoples. Cut subsidies for the arts–he despises art. Cut healthcare–oh, wait a minute, he increased funding for that. That must be becase…umm, because…I know…he loves rich, greedy doctors! The man is a mess of bitter, visceral impulse!
    Meanwhile, cons and a large number of those in the middle see a dullish, somewhat introverted, but competent manager who is proud of his country and is governing just slightly to the right of centre..

    Wouldn’t it be a gas if we learned that Jack penned the love over anger comment with his noble adversary and fellow amateur musician, Stevie, in mind? Naaah!

  14. 15 thereginamom Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I’m with ya on this one, my favourite hippie. Harper did the best he could for the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. He behaved as a “statesman” for what I think could be the first time ever. Maybe now that he has his Majority he can afford to be seen to have a conscience?

    And, nice to see you back at it!

  15. 16 balbulican Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I may be hopelessly naive, but I believe that:

    a) Stephen Harper has vestigial human feelings
    b) Jack Layton really was a decent human being
    c) Harper liked and admired him.

    I remember Harper’s statement after the apology to Aboriginal people, in which he thanked Layton, quite sincerely, for sitting him down, talking him through the issue, and explaining why it mattered. The fact that it made no lasting impact on Harper’s Aboriginal policy in the long term is unfortunate, but I really thought I was hearing the awkward attempt of a man not used to expressing gratitude trying to acknowledge the help of a deeper friend.

  16. 17 JJ Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Well, no more guts than anyone else really, just trying to be rational 🙂 And I’m not too worried about losing any virtual friends, my virtual friends are better than that.

    Harper has been terrifying the left ever since he came into office, thanks to the hidden agenda stuff that originated with the Martin people back in 2004. He should have gotten in front of it when it first started, because it’s really stuck. A few reasons: (1) He comes across as cold and secretive, the kind of guy that makes you wonder what he’s up to, (2) Some of the people that have claimed to have his ear over the years are anathema to the left. Charles McVety etc., and (3) Harper’s a “privatize everything” kind of guy, that’s no secret, and people worry about what kind of havoc he’ll wreak on things like health care.

    I’m certainly familiar with the meme that Harper is driven by blind hatred of whatever group is affected by cuts he’s making. I don’t think so; I think he looks at it all with an economist’s cold eye, and cuts where he thinks (rightly or wrongly) there’s waste. However, I’ve also observed that the cuts he makes tend to be ideological, bones he throws to the base and the corporate overlords. (Whoops, slipping into lefty rhetoric there. Ahem.)

    Heh — we’ll never know what prompted that love over anger comment, but that could well be the case.

  17. 18 JJ Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Yes, I thought it was a class act from a guy not normally given to class acts directed at the opposition. Well done.

    (And thanks! I’m so busy these days I don’t know if I’ll be up to the standard I was before, but I’ll do my best!)

  18. 19 JJ Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    “Vestigial human feelings”, LOL

    I don’t think you’re being naive at all. I think both his apology and his thanks to Jack Layton came from the heart. The apology meant a lot especially to the Elders, and it was a class act on Harper’s part both to make the apology and to thank Layton for informing him on the issue.

    It is too bad that it didn’t help guide Aboriginal policy in a better direction, but I don’t think Harper sees these things as being related, unfortunately. It’s ironic that policies promoting assimilation will likely continue to be promoted, even as policies with similar goals that produced horrors like residential schools are apologized for.

  19. 20 Torontonian Friday, September 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    This just in! Coren comments on Jack Layton.


  20. 21 jkg Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    I don’t think so; I think he looks at it all with an economist’s cold eye, and cuts where he thinks (rightly or wrongly) there’s waste. However, I’ve also observed that the cuts he makes tend to be ideological, bones he throws to the base and the corporate overlords. (Whoops, slipping into lefty rhetoric there. Ahem.)

    Setting aside Peter’s slight of hand when it comes to searching for the worst critics to lessen the seriousness of some these cuts, it is one thing to cut the National Research Council; it is another to appoint a functionary who demands that research programmes are revamped such that their results need to be immediately monetized and used to “spark innovation.” One of the rather interesting critiques to come out of free market pundits (paging Andrea Mandel-Campbell), which has incidentally been internalized by the Conservative party is Canadian companies’ heavy reliance on federal subsidies that invariably cover their R&D. The folks over at the Manning Center have been quite vocal about “sparking innovation,” but the overall refrain has been that companies should no longer expect that their R&D be covered through federal subsidy. Call me an irrational critic, but given that there is already a federal agency whose mandate is to industrialize applied research and development, to steer the National Research Council away from fundamental research ( which is the precursor to applied research) to more applied, industrialized research, it is not a leap to suggest that this was more out of ideological sympathies and a quid pro quo to the business lobby than a sincere assessment of the quality of scientific research being performed. If previous Liberal governments had to wear the “Brain Drain” albatross during their tenure (if you recall, the reason why was that medical and scientific professionals were going to the U.S. originally was because of lack of oppourtunity, a critique lobbed at the time by the Head of National Citizen’s Coalition, Stephen Harper), Harper will have to bear that burden as well even with the sting of being accused of picking and choosing the science, which is not a large distance from appearing to be anti-science. It doesn’t help also when you put chemists, biologists, and physicists out on the street who will most likely find some oppourtunity outside of Canada despite the economic times (heck I know a few epidemiologists who now work in the U.K.).

    As for the funeral, of course, there is no question, Harper did the honourable thing. I think the funeral, however, was a litmus test of some people’s personalities and rigidness. If you tried to rationalize it like Barbara Kay by citing protocol so religiously, the actual objection may not be coming from a place where people are born again traditional adherents to Parliamentary protocol.

  21. 22 JJ Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    as well even with the sting of being accused of picking and choosing the science, which is not a large distance from appearing to be anti-science.

    Debatable. When Harper is accused of being “anti-science”, it is in the most atavistic way possible — ie. he’s “anti-science” because he’s a religious fundamentalist who believes the bible is scrupulously true. That’s just not true. When he makes cuts to scientific research, it’s generally the kind of research that might run afoul of certain corporate interests, ie. research on the environmental impact of developing the tar sands. Harper isn’t anti-science as much as he’s pro-business.

    Speaking of atavistic, Barbara Kay’s primitive bleats about Layton’s funeral were very transparent. She can yap about protocol all she wants, but the translation of her diatribe is simply “I don’t like that guy so I don’t want him to have this honour”. And that was obvious to anyone who read the piece.

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