A mere 10 hours after Jack Layton passed away, the National Post published Christie Blatchford's instructional column on how to die.
According to Blatchford, Layton didn't do it right, and as a result his death has become a public spectacle.
The Blatchford rules of dying are as follows:
- Do not go over 1,000 words on your death bed. Whatever you have as your last words, best to keep it short.
- Avoid any sentences that could be confused with "bumper-sticker slogans"; a turn of phrase could be mean the difference between a respectful funeral and a dreaded public spectacle.
- Also on your deathbed, you must appear non-partisan, even if you are partisan and a politician. Otherwise your words will be nothing more than "ruthlessly partisan politicking."
- And do not say or write anything positive about yourself, lest you appear too "vainglorious."
Layton, as it turns out, was in violation of all of these.
But comparing this nonsense above and what Blatchford wrote when Toronto police officer Ryan Russell died earlier this year reveals a whole other set of principles.
When a police officer dies, as Blatchford wrote in the Globe on January 13, a motorcade of police cars lining the highway is an acceptable tribute. When a police officer dies, a public outpouring of grief is beyond criticism. The same applies in military deaths.
It would appear her simplistic rules evaporate when a uniform is involved. (Or, more like it, when the politics align.)
So there is a double standard.
But more than that, there is irony. Overlong? Vainglorious? Ruthlessly partisan? A public spectacle? Do these vitriolic descriptions not suit the columnist in question better than who she was writing about?
Who else would spit out nearly 1,000 angry words so soon after a sitting politician passes away than a vainglorious writer?
Who else takes exception to light, posthumous criticism of the Conservatives by the head of the NDP than a ruthless partisan Conservative?
Who else wants to halt the mourning of a cancer victim to critique the language of his last words than a woman desperate to become a public spectacle herself?
The enduring message in Layton's wonderful final letter was positivity. Very clearly he wouldn't take Blatchford's warped arguments personally. And those mourning the loss of the great leader shouldn't either.
Whatever she wrote in this mean-spirited column is her own problem. Not his, and certainly not ours.