— or so said Aristotle.
The True North, Strong and Free, goes to the polling stations tomorrow to vote in a federal election that, from the onset of its campaign, has been poised to make history one way or another.
Don’t worry – I’m not going to get up on the political soapbox (I tend not to unless absolutely necessary). But I am going to get up on the social soapbox that concerns politics – specifically, the one about a citizen’s duty and right to vote in a federal election…about the democratic privilege of being able to choose the regime that runs the nation.
This right is something too many Canadians take for granted.
I voted in my first federal election just a couple of months after my eighteenth birthday, which in and of itself is a big deal: I was not born on Canadian soil, but because I was able to obtain citizenship, I am now able to vote here.
Where did I come from? The Philippines – an island nation that has been plagued by corruption, dictatorship, and tyranny ever since its conquerors departed from its shores. Though I do not remember it, I have heard the stories of martial law – including the one about my parents, who worked a polling station in Manila during an election and were held up at gunpoint by guerrillas who were stealing ballot boxes and therefore silencing the voices of the people. I also have heard how my oldest sister left the Philippines before her eighteenth birthday and before a huge election that was poised to become one of the most important in our motherland’s history, and how she had to wait another ten years before she could vote again – this time, as a Canadian, and in another election forecasted to be some kind of watershed in Canada’s history. This is my family’s history and personal relationship with democracy, and this is why we vote.
I have also heard stories from friends who came to Canada like I did from other nations where the right to vote and choose the governing body is nothing more than mere fantasy – a dream, a wish, a cause to fight for and, in some cases, to die for.
I read newspapers from all over the world and daily shake my head over articles about political regimes that strip away basic human rights in the name of personal gain for those in charge of these nations, and I feel sorrow for the loss of human dignity – and sometimes even human life – that occurs when those brave few who attempt to defy these regimes in the name of democracy.
Democracy — something about Canada that we, its citizens, are so very blessed to have yet in the past have proven to take for granted; a point of pride that we have in our nation’s charter and history yet barely know anything about when it comes to how it really works or what role we, the people, play in the production known as The Federal Election.
I’ve heard so many people say that if they don’t go to the polling station, it won’t really matter – it’s only one less vote, and that won’t change anything. But a federal election is no time to have an inferiority complex.
One vote can make a difference – especially one vote from each person who thinks that his or her ballot won’t count for anything. And that’s one of the things that makes democracy so desperately sought in the modern world: the mere fact that your opinion contributes to the political future of your nation is a complete given if you are a citizen and of age on election day.
I won’t tell you who to vote for, because that’s personal and that’s up to you. But I will tell you that if you don’t vote tomorrow, the fact that you didn’t exercise your civil duty and take full charge of your right to cast a ballot means you ought to forfeit your right to complain about the government we have in Canada on Tuesday morning. No, really. Because if you couldn’t give a damn enough to make a mark on a ballot on election day, you’re in no place to bitch about who got voted in to run the show on Parliament Hill the morning after.