I’ve never thought that I was very political. I think that it was because I grew up in a household where my father belonged to the Socialist Labour Party of Canada: a very small DeLeon socialist party. The members of the Toronto branch of that party would meet regularly for what they called ‘socials’ which were usually held at our house because my father owned a house and most of the other men did not. The men who were married would bring their wives who would come with food. The women would dutifully put out the fare, wait for the men to eat, clean up after them, and then retreat to their isolation booth — our kitchen. Meanwhile, the men would go into the living room and talk about the political ills in our country and pontificate about how everything could be fixed. At each municipal election one of the party members who was retired from the workforce would run for office. Then my father would mount the candidate’s sign on the top of our car for the duration of the campaign and my mother would have to drive the car with this silly thing on top of it every Friday when she went grocery shopping
Being a child, I found the separation of the sexes weird and the arguments of the men worse than useless since I didn’t think they knew what they were talking about and no one was going to pay any attention to them anyway. And there was nothing for me to do. The TV was in the living room so watching it was out. Playing in the dining room or practising piano was out since I couldn’t make any noise which might interrupt the political discussion in the living room. I couldn’t see myself hanging out in the kitchen — a 10 year old with all these married-with-children women? There were no books in the house I wanted to read. It was too late to go outside and play with my friends. As well, I was truly embarrassed by the sign mounted on the top of the car which smacked of the kinds of advertising I would see on the roofs of cabs.
My father refused to vote since he disagreed with the positions of every branch of government. My mother didn’t vote in order to keep the peace at home. Once I was old enough to do so, I chose to vote. It struck me as ridiculous to refuse to vote because I might disagree with the positions taken by candidates and their respective parties. If I didn’t vote then, I posited, I had no right to complain about government. How could things change if I’d choose to sit on the sidelines and do nothing? I have voted in every municipal, provincial, and federal election since I turned 18.
The one thing that I’ve usually done is to vote for the person who I felt would best represent my ward or riding irrespective of their political party. I took umbrage with the arguments made to me that, by doing that, I wasted my vote. I was told that the only way to vote was strategically and to vote for the party I wanted in power no matter the character of the person running where I lived. It wasn’t until the last federal election that I chose to vote strategically for the candidate whose leader I felt would be the best PM. So I voted ABH. It was a conscious decision which I made after reading and thinking about the policies espoused by each party and listening to the speeches given by each leader.
That being said, I’ve never understood the stand taken by some voters that they will always vote Progressive or Liberal or NDP without question. And I’ve really never understood the US elections where voters are encouraged to register with one political party or the other and with one philosophical leaning or the other and to vote the party line no matter what.
My thoughts about this have been made even stronger this year as we’ve all been held captive by the media and observed the polarization of the political debate in the US. If people choose to not vote because they don’t like any of the candidates, if they do not think for themselves about the kind of world which they want to create for themselves and their children — the world and not just one country, if they vote the party line without question then the US election could create the kind of world I would not like to see the children of the world having to live in. All I can see as the result of this would be a very great mess which our children would have to try and fix.
I’m not saying that everyone should love their neighbour or turn a blind eye to the perils which exist in the world. What I am saying is that if people vote from fear and distrust, if they believe that the solution to everything is to threaten and to strike first, if they believe that the only defence is a good offense then heaven help us all.