These blog postings mean a lot to me and I spend a lot of time mulling over their content. But at present I can’t pull a single thought together. The reason is as human as they come.
Mario Lague joined my wife and I for a drink last Saturday night in London. As Michael Ignatieff’s communications advisor, Mario was on the Liberal Express bus tour. We didn’t know one another well, but he laughed uproariously listening to my wife tell tales of our past trips, especially to Greece. I remember that laugh … especially now. The news that he has just died in a traffic accident has hit us harder than we would have predicted.
Part of the emotional jolt has to do with the nearness of that drink. But earlier that evening he wanted to discuss these blog postings. “You think different,” he began, “but it’s challenging my own preconceptions. Political life has become so partisan that it’s tough to just enjoy having a liberal disposition.” He said a mouthful in that moment. Admitting that my observations presented certain opportunities for his own messaging, he encouraged my wife and I to continue putting them out as often as possible. “It’s the high road or it’s no road,” he concluded.
The truth is that Mario Lague often displayed a kind of understanding and fair non-partisanship that I didn’t know existed until the night of that drink. It’s best described in today’s poignant reflections by Paul Wells:
His views, in short, almost never constituted a rote partisan caricature of his opponents, either in Quebec or across the aisle in Ottawa. He saw allies and adversaries as people and believed understanding them with a measure of sympathy was a professional and human obligation.”
This remarkable trait should be the absolute bedrock of all political understanding. Where has it gone? Without people like Mario, where will it come from? We are a people lost – not just for a friend, or a colleague, but for the very inspiration he embodied. Why didn’t I spend time with him sooner? Stupid, stupid me!
In Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, the 20th century Welsh Poet Dylan Thomas famously defied death with the words, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Well, Mario turned that on its head, by projecting a demeanour of understanding and a slight impatience at what has happened to our Canadian political system. In truth, he did go gentle into that good night because he was a gentle soul with a soldier’s heart. It’s me who rages – frustrated with myself, and frustrated that God took such a beautiful man from the midst of people who wanted to change their world.
We have lost a friend but perhaps gained a legacy. This country deserves the likes of Mario Lague – his example is one of our finest memories. It’s time to grow angry with ourselves that we have failed to pick up this torch sooner in the day. He has gone gently … and we weep. When we parted on Saturday night he thanked us for picking up the tab. “I’ll get the next one,” he smiled at us. If only ….