I’m not into politics, but I am holding up a sign.
Eight days to our next federal election. The eleventh election that I’ve had the legal right to vote in. And perhaps the first that I’m speaking up about.
When I was growing up, my parents often said, “If you want to keep your friends, then don’t talk about politics or religion.” Well, that was fine with me because both those topics were overwhelmingly boring, so those arguments would be easy to avoid.
I dated a guy briefly in 1997 who asked me who I voted for. “I don’t vote,” I said.
“What?! How can you not vote? Why not?”
“Because it’s all just a bunch of mumbo jumbo,” I said.
“You can’t be serious. You love your job, right?”
“Well, what if, for instance, somebody gets elected, and they make a rule that means you can’t work at your job anymore?”
“I’d get a new job.”
He shakes his head. Incredulous.
I shake my head. Dumbfounded.
I actually had voted in 1993. I knew absolutely nothing about the parties, their platforms, or their politics. I just wanted the woman to win. After more than a hundred years of male leaders, I thought a female leader would provide a good shakeup, and it turned out that her party was my favourite colour, so that seemed like the right choice. Blue was heavily defeated, and I didn’t think I’d bother voting again. I didn’t know enough. I was just a naive woman.
I met my husband in 1998, not long after I stopped watching the news and TV altogether. Voting was also important to him, so for the next six federal elections, I engaged him with questions to remind me the names of the parties and their leaders, the difference between right and left, and how that equated to conservative and socialist and capitalist and liberal—trying to sort through the mumbo jumbo. And then I’d vote for whoever he was voting for because he seemed to know what he was talking about. When a new election rolled around, I’d have forgotten all the colours and would ask him to re-educate me all over again.
I tried to figure it out for myself in 2019, to make my vote count for me and what I want, rather than for the more well-informed man I trust in my home. I voted Green because I wanted support for the health of our planet, but I still didn’t want to talk to friends or relatives or strangers about it.
This year, my husband sent me this nifty tool for determining how our opinions align with the parties. What I learned is that I have a lot more to learn about the individual issues that are important to our country. It’s an exciting time for me though because I finally have most of the terms figured out and memorized. I finally know my left from right and have a very general sense of how things work.
So, I was shocked when an NDP friend told me she’d recently been called a communist in a rude way. A communist? Really? My first thought was, What decade are we in? What have I missed by not watching the news? Because I’m not even into politics, and I don’t for a minute believe that socialist and communist are the same thing. That spreading the wealth across our country will result in dictatorship. That welcoming immigrants will destroy our identity. That lifting up our most marginalized people will impoverish the rest of us. That public programs will take away our freedom to speak our mind and act peacefully. No way.
Instead, I believe that many good, smart people are beginning to step up and push for a better way forward. People who care about the environment and all of us people who live in it. People who know there is a better way for everyone—and the planet too—and that will still uphold democracy. I have the greatest appreciation for those with the passion and energy to take on leadership roles and utilize their intelligence for the well-being of all.
I believe it’s up to the common voter not to sort out who is the goodest and the smartest, but to choose the best person for the job at this moment in time. We don’t have to stick with the same political party (or faith, or life partner, or sexual identity, or gender, or breakfast cereal) forever. It’s okay to change our mind.
Another friend sent me this video excerpt with Avi Lewis (NDP) speaking about hope vs. optimism. Then I watched the whole interview. Avi can see and imagine a better future—one that happens to align with what I want to see—so I believe he will work hard to build it.
I still don’t know much about any of the leaders at the federal level, but unless something changes my mind before election day 2021, I’ll vote for Avi Lewis in my riding (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country). He’s a bit of a superstar in our area, so I have a lot of hope that many others will vote for him, too. I trust his words and intention. And the smart woman by his side, of course.