I once worked with an executive who had his own way of saying things. For his retirement, we made posters with a caricature of him and all his favourite catchphrases. While this one didn’t make the poster, I do remember him telling me, “Everyone seems equally pissed off with us, no matter what side they come from. So, I guess we’ve hit the right spot.” For anyone with die-hard political views, this blog post might cause a similar reaction.
I told myself not to blog about the federal election. I already felt a little overwhelmed about my last politics-related post and the follow-up to it, and this federal election feels like it’s cost me more mental energy than any of its candidates are worth. But…here I am. Despite mentally planning an entirely different post, I’m typing this one.
As someone said to me this morning, “I’d like to take a little from this platform, and that platform, and that platform.” Ditto. None of what’s being peddled entirely hits the mark for me.
But more importantly, I’d like politicians to begin behaving like leaders. I’d also like media not to seek out ugly fires and dump gasoline on them. And I’d like all of us who consume media to be more choosy about where we get our news and what we click on.
That’s my wish list. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to get my wishes granted, but I still need to decide how to vote. And I want to vote for something, not against something. I thought about voting based on an individual candidate, but I haven’t met anyone doing any campaigning. (Maybe because there seems to be a strategy from all parties to skip Alberta?)
Moreover, in and around the actual campaigning, the kinds of conversations people are having (and I’m guilty here too) seem increasingly divisive and awful. Why? I believe we really are capable of more nuanced, complex thinking. I don’t believe we should have to vote based on fear, but it’s easy to forget that in the heat of the moment. It’s harder to remember that we can – and should – hold the middle ground on many issues.
Seriously, I refuse to buy into a “you’re with me on everything or you’re against me” attitude. That way of thinking has always seemed to be the worst thing about American politics, where it’s all about making one of two choices. In a democracy, I think more choices is better. And I’ve long hoped for electoral reform in Canada that would make our votes more meaningfully in line with that view (for more on what I’m talking about, there are lots of sources for you to look up; here’s one that uses B.C. as an example, but can also apply to the whole country).
In the absence of such reform (a big, sarcastic thanks goes to Trudeau & Co. for breaking that promise), I am going to vote for the idea of having more choices. I know my ballot will include two major parties, and then a couple of names from the next tier of major-ish parties, and then there will be some candidates from outlier options. I’m headed for one of those.*
There are lots of arguments against this approach. I think I’ve had most of those arguments in my own head. But in the end, the thing that matters most to me right now is voting in favour of something other than a “this or that” attitude – and for someone other than an established politician. I’m sick of feeling like I’m supposed to participate in a democracy where it is increasingly common to see threats, fear-mongering, and incitement of hate.
We should be able to take pride in participating in the democratic process, not feel exhausted, saddened, or angered by it.
I don’t want to live in a country where politicians wear bulletproof vests. Nor do I want to live in a country where politicians feel compelled to make a political statement out of a bulletproof vest. And I definitely don’t want to live in a country where voters have become so cynical that they see a bulletproof vest as a political statement.
There’s less than a week until the election, and if you have other ideas about what to do, I’d love to hear them. But please share those ideas based on the goal of building a better Canada, not dividing it further.
In the meantime, here’s a happier note to end on:
I had a meeting with someone today who told me about reviewing the party platforms with his 8-year-old. I was amazed to hear that his son looked at one party’s views on accepting newcomers and refugees and then asked this follow-up question: “But what’s their view on housing? Because the refugees will need somewhere to live.” The ability of this child to think about interrelated issues warms my rant-y little heart. It’s certainly more inspiring than this blog post.
So, if all else fails, follow the kid’s example. Take the issues you care about and think about what (and who) else they’re connected to. There’s probably a bigger picture to consider. If our politicians can’t see it, at least there’s hope in raising children who can.
*Here’s a thing I learned over the weekend: Until fairly recently, every vote also meant a “per vote subsidy” — meaning that each party received campaign financing based at least partially on the number of votes they received. This formula would have been another reason for me to vote the way I’ve described above. But it turns out that former Prime Minister Harper killed that nod to democracy, so now our tax dollars just go toward rebates for political parties based on how much they spend…further limiting the chances of anyone with new ideas breaking onto the scene. Sigh.