Tens of millions of people on this third rock from the sun, this only place in the universe where free will is at least possible, live under the yoke of tyranny. Those who do not, share one thing in common: Periodically, they get to vote.
Today, Canadians get to vote for the government they believe will, on balance, reflect their values, protect their civil rights and deliver a minimum standard of social equity and fairness.
Is the system here in the Great White North perfect?
One of Britain’s great prime ministers, Winston Churchill, is alleged to have said: “Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is. . .all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Canada’s system is, by and large, Winston’s. Again, is it perfect?
We might prefer some form of proportional representation, in which pluralities of votes in individual constituencies truly represent the will of the people. We might expect those we elect to advocate our interests vigorously and without fear of back-benching themselves into political oblivion. We might want partisan bickering to dissolve, replaced by cross-party negotiation on the most important issues that concern Canadians: jobs, education, health care.
To quote an artist, “we don’t always get what we want, but sometimes we get what we need”.
So, then, what do we need?
Is it a government that panders to an ideologically calcified segment of our society, or one that listens to everyone?
Is it a government that prescribes political fixes for problems that don’t actually exist, or one that recognizes trials and tribulations as they emerge in the towns and cities where people actually live, raise families, work and die?
Is it a government that, in the end, believes in, and cherishes, the people it purports to represent, or one that rests contemptuously on its talking points?
These are the big questions that politicians are forbidden to answer, the queries that even their advocates and factotums are unequipped to address. These are the quandaries only we, the people, are permitted by our democracy, to resolve. We get to vote.
In recent years, New Brunswickers have been voting in droves. They’ve lined up at local Lions Centres, at kiosks in malls, at “hole-in-the-wall” outposts in small-town locations. In other words, we, and only we, get to (and do) vote.
The question is no longer how we vote today, but that we do. Those who choose to stay home and watch the latest episode of “Game of Thrones”, rather than engage in the “live-action-role-play” of their own existence on this benighted planet, are cheating themselves – and the rest of us.
Like it or not, we are all in this together. That’s what it means to belong to a democracy; and, surely, we belong to it as much as it belongs to us. For, if we don’t exercise our right to choose how we live and work, we abrogate our power to determine how our children live and work. We abandon them in the most irresponsible ways imaginable.
We become the heroes of our own lives simply by acknowledging that no one is coming to rescue us from inequity and despair – no one, that is, except us.
We vote to change the world. We vote to change the only universe we know. We vote to become better than we’ve ever been before.