By Jesse Zimmerman
“Guess who I met today?” I asked my friend, Drei, through MSN one evening.
“Who?” he asked.
“David Miller,” I replied, as I had attended a City Council meeting earlier that day. For a hopeful future politician this was quite a feat.
“Who’s that?” Came the reply.
I was a little shocked, though by now I should know better. I explained that he was the mayor of Toronto. Drei simply shrugged over the MSN (it's possible) and told me that he didn’t care and to let him know when I meet Matt Sundin. Meeting the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs would also be amazing, since I am a big hockey fan. Sundin, number 31, represents Toronto’s hockey team in the NHL, but then David Miller represents Toronto itself to the country and the world. To me, both are important celebrities, just the two practice very different trades. Overall though, I would place the mayor of Toronto over a skilled hockey player. The reason why is simple; politics is the core of everything. The homes we live in, the water we drink, the possessions we own, the air we breathe, the communities in which we thrive, are all factors influenced by politics. Politics is the brain that runs the body, without it the body is motionless. In a properly run democracy we, the people, should be able to influence and have a say in where that body moves.
We are quite privileged to be living in a democratic country. When I was younger, I had a hard time fully grasping the importance of using your democratic right to vote and be heard. By the time I came about voting age (18), I was quite changed. Many events, conditions and experiences enlightened me into the world of politics and thus my journey began. As the years passed I noticed that this journey did not begin for many of my peers, nor was it likely to start. People, of course, have the choice to use their democratic rights or not. I chose to use it and I encourage every citizen to do the same, whether we are speaking of simple community issues, provincial, federal or even international matters. We, as Canadians and citizens of a democratic nation, are privileged to be able to have our opinions heard, yet many doubt this to be true. Sad truth is, many youths feel this doubt. This worries me. Youth are the future, yet so many feels ostracized from our democracy. In the last federal election, only 60.5% of eligible voters turned out, the youth vote being a very tiny percentage of this.
There are many reasons for this, some I have read of, others I have learned through experiences. I recall one that took place just a few months ago. I was on my way to work when I ran into an old acquaintance from high school. I didn’t personally know him, but I recognized him from mutual friends. We started talking about school and old friends and eventually ran into a conversation about politics. He promised to vote for me if I ever ran for anything, but also added that he believed it was dangerous for him to vote, as he claimed to know nothing about politics. As our conversation progressed, I found his earlier statement to be quite untrue. We spoke of matters ranging from international relations, foreign policy, gun control issues, crime and poverty. We didn’t speak about it in the manner which two politicians would, but we were speaking of it nonetheless. It turns out he had quite a lot of opinions on various issues. Many people, like my friend, felt they didn't have political opinions, that to understand politics you must use fancy, uncommon words and big numbers and symbols. Many youth feel that they are not intelligent enough to understand politics This couldn’t be further from the truth. Why does it take a huge I.Q. count to have an opinion on something? I’ve found that nearly everyone, no matter what their age or status in society have political viewpoints inside them. It’s about time we all use it.
Another reason why many young people chose not to vote is because they feel their vote doesn’t matter, as it is only one of millions. Now, what if everyone though that way? No one would vote. Nothing would get done. What if every player on the Toronto Raptors decided not to play, since he is just one player? The Raptors would lose every game. It’s not really much different. It starts with one; it starts with you.
Many youth feel disconnected with politics because they believe in the end, no matter who is in power things will always be the same. They say that people will always complain about something and there will never be a time when everyone is content. But then, has there ever been a time like that? There’s a saying that goes “You can’t please everyone, but you can at least try.” Yes, no matter which party is leading the country, or which mayor is governing a city, there will always be problems. Problems are part of the human experience. There will always be people who are not satisfied with the status quo. The point is to choose which option you think would be best, even if you feel it is the least of a group of evils. A lesser evil is preferable to a greater one, is it not?
It is important that you understand that you have power. Certain politicians may want to hide that fact from you. Certain lobbyists and bureaucrats may prefer that the people not feel empowered, so that they can have their ways. My friends, we must always be critical of those in power. Politicians are people like us and we have the right and the power to make them accountable and assure they listen to those who support them. Always be mindful and aware of what goes on in the world of politics, remember that you do not serve them, but rather they are meant to serve you. Make sure they do, as it is your right.
We are lucky to live in a nation where we are allowed to run it, let’s see that we keep it that way. We must cherish our rights and the best way to do that is to use them.