Let me explain.
I am belatedly political—having voted for the first time after I turned forty—most people don’t know that about me yet all my life I have constantly heard and continue to hear this line thrown out as though the speaker originated the argument, “If you don’t vote you have no right to complain.”
They’re right. No argument here. In fact, before I turned forty you couldn’t get me into a political conversation if your life depended on it. But for the last decade I’ve certainly more than made up for lost time.
A few days ago, I went to visit an acquaintance in the hospital here in London, Ontario. Half joking I said, “Oh, you have a tv. You can watch the US debate Tuesday!” “You betcha!” he answers (mimicking Sarah Palin’s cadence) and then without missing a beat, his wife looks me dead on and states, “I can’t wait to see how Obama defends all his lies.”
I changed the subject but it was one of those moments that gives you pause.
Then Monday, I received this 18-word email message from someone who has known me for fifteen years and moved to London years before I did: “Seriously, I have very little respect for anyone who still believes in Obama after these past 4 years.”
That’s when you say to yourself, if these two incidents happened in our beautiful Forest City in a country where we are known and sometimes dismissed for our politeness, where people constantly refer to our apathy considering our own politics imagine the level of rancour south of the border.
But I wasn’t surprised. I’m targeted because I now post political updates on my Facebook and Twitter accounts … oh, and maybe for the occasional Huffington Post political blog post where I have expressed my admiration for the current President.
I am left with an odd feeling though as I don’t engage in verbal fights of any kind. Never have, never will. I do enjoy a good debate but I don’t feel the two openings above are debate worthy. Tell me why you believe as you do and I’ll listen, but don’t tell me what to think or judge me for coming to my own conclusions.
Telling people how to feel or how they should vote politically does NOT get them out to vote. I have no doubt that’s why millions and millions of dollars are spent in the US election trying to influence the undecided-maybe-I-will-maybe-I won’t potential voters.
Don’t like any of the choices—24%
Not interested in politics—20%
No time to vote—2%
Certainly not the media—here or in the US. They drive me nuts as they rewrite an ever-changing script—sometimes in advance. I don’t need to tell you how everyone has covered the Romney-Obama debates but you will note the media lambasted Romney for his campaign’s mistakes for four weeks prior to the first debate, yet one debate performance and it was the game changer. I heard one honest commentator before the second debate say, even if Obama delivers an amazing performance, the media would prefer the current “dynamic duo deadlocked-in-the-polls” story.
I can think of only one Canadian politician who has inspired me since the days of Trudeaumania: Stephen Lewis who was leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the 70s. Now there was and is a true leader, a well-spoken man who has never stopped practicing what he preaches. In the 80s he was ambassador to the UN representing Canada and then in the 2000s he was the United Nations’ special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. He even started his own charitable organization that helps people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Years ago I had the privilege of dealing with Mr. Lewis, arranging an interview concerning his foundation. I don’t think I’ve experienced a more gracious and modest individual in the public sphere.
I now believe it was his sincerity in motion that inspired my first vote. I didn’t realize it then but I now know I always wanted to believe in someone, something politically.
I still consider the right to participate in elections a privilege that involves individual choice but now my choice is to get involved.
A version of this article appeared on The Huffington Post.
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Image credit: seeingimonkey/Flickr