My Voice My Vote – Use it or Lose it

I have only voted once. There. I said it. It`s really quite embarrassing for me to admit that now. It wasn`t always though because I used to justify not voting with the fact that I am not interested in politics. Infact, I would even go as far as to proclaim that I don`t “believe” in politics. Ug.

The one time I did vote, it was only because I could. I had just turned 18 and didn`t have a clue about anything. I went in quite blindly and voted according to gender. I barely remember how it all went so I guess it didn`t make much of an impression on me. Clearly I didn`t like the process because I never did it again. Perhaps I thought that once I got into the voting booth I would instinctually “know” who to vote for. Like somewhere inside me would be a whisper of the “right” person to do the job best. But that is not what happened.

That night alone in the privacy of my cubicle, I stared at the ballot and desperately waited for some sign. I was sure I would be able to see some signal of whom I should choose. But alas, nothing. So failing some divine intervention, I had to rely on my gut. And my gut wasn`t talking. So then I just figured that I would go for the women on the list because they had obviously worked hard to get onto the ballot. As far as I knew, politics and jobs in government are male dominated. Women, in general, have had to try harder than their male counterparts to make their mark in these types of professions. Therefore, I deducted, they deserved my vote. I know this reasoning was silly and irresponsible, but at 18, so was I. Besides, it was only a municipal election…how much did it really matter, right?

When I traveled abroad, I didn`t even know who the prime minister of Canada was anymore. I had lost complete track of anything that was going on back home. I barely even had contact with my Mom and Dad, let alone what the country was up to.

So what has changed? I guess my social conscience. Over the past year, I have been feeding on a steady stream of information from various sources. Documentaries have been a remarkable gateway for me. I find them fascinatingly motivational. My local tea shop holds a weekly screening of gripping documentaries which lead to heated discussions. The internet has been quite helpful in investigating global (and local) issues I hear about here and there. While I may glance at the newspaper, I find that I would prefer to find several viewpoints on a situation rather than one journalists perspective. I can diversify my research easily and efficiently through the information highway.

I have many activist friends who nudge me every now and then to get more involved. I like that they don`t try to sway me to their way of thinking but just encourage me to think about it. I find that when I feel pressured in a certain direction, I tend to resist no matter what is being presented. Maybe that is stubborn but it is how I react. I seem to be quite sensitive to bias and shut down at the slightest hint of it. My more intelligent peers seem to sense that when presenting to me when I inquire about their stance.

I am learning how important it is to keep an open mind in order to connect with people on their level. I am enjoying more thought-provoking discussions with those who have information that I find helpful in refining my beliefs. I am becoming more passionate now that I have lost the numbness I have hid behind so long. I find apathy is becoming unattractive to me these days. I don`t want that word used in relation to me anymore.

So in a week, I will be voting. I was glad when the pair of volunteers showed up at my door to register me. I was glad when my neighbor told me that I merely had to walk across the street to my polling station. I was glad that I ran into some candidates who were canvassing the neighborhood who gave me brochures. I am glad that I get to have a say. I am glad I am finally taking responsibility.

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” -Helen Keller

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