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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Think Twice, Vote Once

People say when you vote, you exercise your power. I see it slightly differently. I think when you vote, you give away a piece of your power. You decide who to give it to, and that is a bit of power. But the person you vote for gets to wield your power for much longer than the few minutes you are behind the cardboard, marking your "x." I'd like to say the person you vote for will use this new power you've given them on your behalf, but that's not always true. That's why you have to try hard to understand who you are giving this piece of yourself to. You have to make sure they will use it in a way that represents you, in a way you would use it if you still had it.

There's this book I really like called "Bowling Alone" by Robert D. Putnam. It explains social change in America and the collapse of community and how in the past, people used to belong to organizations in the community, the PTA, and bowling leagues, organizations that knitted together our social fabric. To completely simplify Putnam's gorgeous argument, this doesn't happen as much anymore. Now we're bowling alone with our Wii in the basement. We're not connected. And when we're not connected, we start thinking more about our own individual needs and less about the needs of our neighbours. In this circumstance, it is no wonder that libertarian ideals creep insidiously into our governments. I enjoyed the book when Putnam was talking about the United States. I could observe the argument with the cool logic that distance provides. Now it's personal. Now it's about where I live, about my home. Now I'm sitting with the book in my hands reading it in a new way.

I keep saying, Albertans want change, but is Wildrose the change they really want? I can't believe the polls. I thought I was living in a place where people cared about each other, where human rights were respected, where homophobia and racism and other plagues of ignorance were, for the most part, in the past. Occasional outbursts were becoming fewer and farther between. I feel disappointed and disheartened. I feel I have been out of step, living in an idea of community that was only that - an idea. The Alberta I thought I lived in, the one that was moving forward, seems to be a myth.

It's been tempting for me to walk to the solitary Wildrose sign in my immediate vicinity, knock on the door and say, "Really? Explain your thinking to me," and try to engage in a discussion. This is how convinced I am that my neighbours share a commitment to and deep respect for their fellow Albertans. I haven't done it yet. I'm glad because today I talked to their next door neighbour who was raking her yard in this beautiful sunshine and, of course, we started talking about the election. She tilted her head towards the neighbour's yard and their Wildrose sign and said, "I should have known they'd be Wildrosers. When they moved in, we were having work done on the foundation and she said, 'Who is the wop doing your work?' I didn't even know her name yet and she's using words like wop with me. They're a lost cause." Good to know. But still, in other neighbourhoods where Wildrose signs are more plentiful, I find it hard to believe that all those people behind all those front doors are true believers in the firewall, use words I haven't heard since Archie Bunker, and would like to see gay people burn in the lake of fire. But tomorrow I will have to face reality. Either this province is the place I thought it was, or it's not.

A few days ago at my local coffee shop, the owner asked "What's the word?" as he always does. It's his catch phrase. I said, "Apparently, it's okay to be a climate change denier again." He laughed out loud, but then looked around nervously. He doesn't want to piss off any customers. Once he saw the coast was clear, he said, "I can't believe this is happening." We commiserated. Someone else piped in and said, "At this point, Danielle Smith could be an axe-murderer, and voters would say the victim probably deserved it." I have another friend who joked that since Danielle Smith says that climate change isn't real, the rising temperature must be caused by all the gays burning in the lake of fire. It's not funny so much as it is sad that in 2011, someone is giving us material for jokes like this. (If you want some good ones, go on twitter and search the #wildroserumours. Hilarious. Pathetic. Scary. Disappointing.) If they win, we'll be giving John Stewart material for years.

Think hard about who you are giving your power to, who you are giving your vote to. I know if you're reading this blog, you are not inclined to vote Wildrose anyway. Make it your business to change a mind today.

For the record, here are Daveberta's endorsements. I'm lucky to live in one of the ridings he mentions.  For the rest of you, think twice because you only get to vote once.

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