There are a lot of things I pretend to know a lot about. When someone on the Food Network describes how they’re going to prepare a dish using this technique, I nod knowingly, like that’s just what I thought they should do. Or if a friend is talking about a problem with their children, I tell her how to solve it because, as a childless man, I am an authority on such matters. It’s fun to pretend you know something when you don’t, and it’s even more fun when you can back up any ill-informed opinion with passion and anger. That’s why like to pretend I know a lot about politics.
You could fit all I know about politics inside a bejeweled evening clutch purse and still have room for your tampons. I know the far right are wealthy, god-fearing assholes and the far left are degenerate, vegan homosexuals. I know money trumps ideals and everyone can basically be bought. But I also know that the few times I’ve stuck my head out of the proverbial sand to learn just a little about how things run around here, enough to become engaged and vote, I’ve felt better about myself.
I felt really good tonight when Alberta voted in an NDP government, the first non-Conservative government to hold power in this province for nearly 50 years. The tally Dr. Jon and I were watching on CBC had the PCs winning a bunch of seats as the votes were initially tabulated, and I became deflated and discouraged, but then the pendulum swung the other way and our TV screen started to fill with orange. Jon was as excited as I’ve ever seen him (aside from the time a streetcar driver told jokes over the loudspeaker and Jon laughed and clapped like an insane person). I’m really excited too. I mean, who knows if this new crop of youngsters will affect real change, but at least they can shake things up a bit, can’t they?
One thing is plain: I’m glad I voted and I was excited to therefore be a part of something historic. Imagine how much better I’d feel if I actually knew a thing or two.
Dream: Become politically aware.
Goal: Achievable. I marvel at Jon’s encyclopedic memory when it comes to political figures and events. He uses the part of his brain that the rest of us for pop culture. For instance, he will never recognize an actor out of context. If someone from one TV we watch shows up on another, he doesn’t notice, or care. But he can tell you who won which seats in 1996.
I have other friends who, though they may have less of a “dates and times” memory, believe strongly that history has proven x so therefore they lean y politically. So confident are they, that any discussion is useless. I’d like to be that loud and obnoxious too.
Plan: Learn about Canadian politics uggggggggghnnnnn no! I’m already so bored!
I think Canada’s greatest political strength and liability simultaneously is the fact that every figure is just so boring. I’m glad we’re not won over by smooth-talking charlatans, but would it kill these guys to give good soundbite once in a while? Barack Obama, for whatever he’s been able to accomplish (or not) is a smooth, well-spoken character who (far as I can tell) deals almost exclusively in platitudes. Yes we can, change we can believe in, etc. He’s the Oprah president. There’s nothing wrong with having an Oprah president; it made for an interesting campaign and election, but I still don’t know that guy’s game. If he was as idealistic and pie-eyed as he presented himself in 2008, how is he not crushed by the weight of constant opposition? He can’t get a bill passed, why isn’t he raging?
By contrast, Harper could be gleefully rubbing his hands before tucking into a meal of endangered species topped with taxpayer sweat and I wouldn’t notice because he’s such a dullard. I remember watching the debates last federal election, and it seemed like every other party leader’s plan was to knock him off kilter. They confronted Harper on his hypocrisy and lies, getting more and more fervent in their delivery, and old Harps was stable as a table. He just stood there like he was waiting for a bus. I may not know what he’s thinking either, but it’s the quiet guys you’ve gotta watch, and I think we’ve let him stay too long at the fair.
I used to be one of those guys that eschewed voting. “It’s a fixed system, man! Your vote doesn’t count! Why participate in a process that’s broken?” But then I realized that rhetoric was all coming from middle-to-upper-class white dudes, who are in no danger of having their lives affected by any political change. No matter what party is in power, middle-to-upper-class white dudes (like me) are gonna be fine, so of course they (we) can say that. Show me a low-income immigrant to this country espousing the same philosophy, and we’ll have ourselves a chat. Until then just vote, you wanks.
When folks talk politics at a party, I feel like the pretty girl around the blackjack table. I become involved only ornamentally, but really my job is to keep my mouth shut and think about having a shrimp cocktail. And it was easy to completely disengage from politics when I moved to a province that seemed to staid and unchanging in its own. But now that change is here, I want to be a part of it. And I’ll always vote because you know what they say: if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. What could be worse than that?