Standing for Something

A friend gave me a book a few years ago.

It's called, "Standing for Something", by Gordon B. Hinckley.

Now.  I must admit, when I first received it, I was skeptical of the content.  My friend is Mormon and Gordon B. Hinckley is a former President of the Mormon Church - so being the non-denominational Christian that I am, and skeptical of most organized religion, I sensed my friend might be embarking on a mission of conversion.

However - as I quickly skimmed over the book, I noted the forward was written by Mike Wallace - no Mormon missionary he, and I became curious and decided to read further.  And at the end of the day, the book struck a chord - and still does today, some 8 years after I read it.

Because far from advocating on behalf of the Mormon Church, or any Church, it posits that for our lives to have value, to improve our society as a whole, change must perhaps begin within ourselves.

Stop blaming others, and look inside and ask, "What do I stand for?"  Do I ask as much of myself as I ask of those around me? Do principals like honesty, civility, forgiveness and gratitude have a place in my life?  While I expect it of those around me - do I uphold those principals in my own life?

And then, later, I came across yet another fascinating book - oddly enough from an avowed liberal and clear opponent of the George W. Bush administration.  The book is "Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists", by Susan Neiman.

Again- coming from a liberal, the book at first blush seemed to be something I would more likely dismiss or attack - however, as I read deeper, again, it struck a great chord in me that persists today.

The message in the Neiman book is essentially that in our democratic system we hunger for "moral" clarity from our leaders.  She does attack the right, particularly George W. Bush, for what she suggests is a faux-morality - but also speaks to the failure of the liberal and progressive movement for abandoning discussions of "morality", and in the bargain, failing to "stand for something."

Why discuss these two books right now.

Because of the bizarre reaction to the death of Jack Layton.

Certainly the zealots in the NDP party have sought to capitalize upon their leader's death - almost like vultures picking a carcass, we see them almost gleefully taking advantage of Mr. Layton's death to make political points.


Beyond that, we do see many Canadians looking to Jack Layton not for what he was, but for what they wished that he was.

Because in Jack Layton, they saw the closest thing to a politician in this time seeking to "stand for something".  Now - to be sure - in many respects, the place he stood was flawed and, perhaps, even dangerous for the welfare of our nation.  And in other respects, his principals were malleable and shifty - however, there was clearly an example of a man who argued a point that, unless he was completely delusional - he know would NEVER get him elected.

That is what, I think, left a mark in our psyche.

We are starved for leaders who "stand for something".

Who show "moral clarity".

As much as the death of Jack Layton has become a political side-show, with scores of political charlatans exhorting us to "step right up and lay our money down" on the NDP party - there is a more subtle response that doesn't come from vultures like Stephen Lewis, that comes from inside of all of us, who wish for something more from our leaders.   It is the normal response of respect for someone passing away, who, in his way, sought to stand for something.

The fact that the vast majority of us disagreed with what he stood for doesn't matter.