Hope is better than fear.

This seems like a good day for the words of a wise Canadian:

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Quote from the final letter of Jack Layton to Canadians as he lay dying in August 2011. h/t Paul Dewar, Member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre and New Democrat Foreign Affairs Critic.

Vaclav Havel, Jack Layton, and the year that was in LGBTQ rights.

Over at BuzzFeed this morning, you’ll find a very heartwarming post: 40 Reasons Why 2011 Was the Best Year for Gays Ever, including such very cool items as:

  1. On February 1, the State Department began issuing passport applications that asks applicants for Mother or parent one and Father or parent two instead of for Father and Mother – “in recognition of different types of families.” (I didn’t even know this was a thing!)
  2. On February 23, the Justice Department announced that it will no longer defend the constitutionality the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
  3. In May, for the first time, a Gallup poll found that most Americans support legalizing same sex marriage.
  4. On September 20, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was officially repealed.
  5. On December 6, the Obama Administration issued a memorandum directing US agencies abroad to use foreign aid to assist LGBT people  facing human rights violations, and to protect LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. In a related speech to the UN in Geneva, Secretary of State Clinton declared that LGBT rights are universal human rights.

I often joke that the only reliable source for good news these days is the LGBTQ community, and it’s the ding-dang truth — but the deeper truth is that all of these advances also serve to show how far we’ve had to come, and still have to go, in recognizing the essential humanity of millions of our fellow Americans. Furthermore, it’s very important to note that while it was the best year ever for gays in the US and a few other places, it wasn’t particularly rosy elsewhere — such as those countries where a person can quite literally be put to death for being gay.

Yet these facts do not detract from the good news for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and I cannot help but think that as things improve in the west, they will also begin to improve elsewhere.

And this brings me to Vaclav Havel and Jack Layton.

Vaclav Havel (who I was lucky enough to meet and briefly interview when I was a baby-journalist and blustered my way into a press event in Jerusalem in 1990) once said to those with whom he would dare to overthrow Communist rule: “Truth and love will overcome lies and hatred.” As he lay dying, Canadian politician Jack Layton (of whom I only learned after his death) wrote a letter to his fellow Canadians, ending with: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful, and optimistic, and we’ll change the world.”

I often despair of the essential power of truth, love, hope and optimism. Forgive me — I am an Israeli peace activist.

But if anything shows how those things can change the world and save us from lies and hatred, it is the advancements made by the LGBTQ community in recent years.

We have so, so far to go — yet we have already come so far. Unsurprisingly, both Havel and Layton were staunch supporters of gay rights. They knew the way, and they, hand in hand with millions of brave LGBTQ people, helped show us the way.

Truth, love, hope and optimism. Maybe we really can change the world.

Jack Layton’s final words.

On an Ottawa sidewalk.

I’m not Canadian, and though I’ve recently tried to get a little bit more abreast of Canadian politics and culture (starting with the wonderful Canada! How does it work?, by Canadian extraordinaire Michelle Dean, at The Awl), I will confess that I had only the vaguest notion of who Jack Layton was before he died of cancer this week at age 61.

Who he was, was leader of the opposition New Democratic Party, but by all accounts, Jack Layton was also much more than that. I’m only beginning to learn, but I’ve learned enough to wish that I could have voted for him, and that he might still be alive and well up north of me, making the world a better, more loving place.

I say “loving” because commenter corkingiron tells us that Mr. Layton apparently advised the men with whom he worked to use words like “love” and “compassion” and “nurture” more often, and the barrage of quotes that Mr. Layton’s admirers are now sending around the internet feature the word “love” quite a lot. Love — in politics. Now that is a concept to bring tears of gratitude to my eyes.

At any rate, I wanted to share the above picture of what are being referred to as Mr. Layton’s final words — for, knowing that he was dying, he wrote a letter to Canada just this past Saturday. It was released within hours of his death on Monday — the above are the words with which he chose to close his farewell. (I’m thinking that whoever chalked those words on the sidewalk must have done so as part of the larger ad hoc memorial outside of Toronto’s City Hall, but I don’t know for sure).

The entire letter is a beautiful thing, both in the writer’s clear desire to continue to help the people and causes in which he believed as they continue to work to achieve their real-world goals, and in his simultaneous ability to transcend party and politics and appeal to all who might be reading his words, particular those who might be struggling with cancer. It made me think of Lincoln, frankly, and I urge you to read it, and I thank commenter JHarper2 for providing it in yesterday’s open thread. You might want also to read these tributes, left in today’s open thread by caoil: An open letter to my generation and A Tribute to Jack Layton (from the White Ribbon Campaign, “the largest effort in the world of men working to end violence against women”). Clearly, Mr. Layton was well-loved, and with good reason.

What really slays me is that as he lay dying, he wrote in the future tense.

My friends, love is better than anger.
Hope is better than fear.
Optimism is better than despair.
So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.
And we’ll change the world.

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Update: Please also check out this blog by the woman who brought the chalk to Toronto City Hall in the first place, and then click on this gobsmacking picture of the square in front of city hall, post-chalk (both thanks to my Twitter pal @rosefox).

h/t Paul Dewar, Member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre and New Democrat Foreign Affairs Critic.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

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