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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Candle in the Dark

Tonight the eyes of the world will be focused on one place - one nation. A nation in the throes of a struggle, fighting to stand up and slough off the cloak of fear that has held them tight for far too long.

If you believe the polls, this'll be a historic moment, a potential landslide unlike any we've ever seen as millions and millions of voters - new voters - mobilize themselves to take part in the maintenance of their Country and their Government.

It's a beautiful thing for these tired eyes - a Democracy where its people are taking a chance, working together to try and help fix a system they know is broken. A beautiful thing. Though I have to admit it's a tad bittersweet watching all this from a Canadian perspective - having just been witness to our own election as it brought with it one of the lowest voter turnouts in history.

Sadly, I don't have the heart to blame'em - at least not for that. We know a leader when we see one and, frankly, we've been spoiled as of late; Watching as our own leaders paled in the shadow of a man on the flip-side of the 49th parallel, wishing that any one of them would bring that kind of fire.

You see, compared to the heartfelt, passionate speeches - compared to the exciting news coverage and constant stream of scandal - our leaders looked positively lifeless. Even when sitting across the table from one another, even when tempers flared - with all their umbrage (s)played out for us to see - it seemed like nothing more than a political tool (at best).

And maybe it's because we don't have the 2-year-long campaigns with their ability to gather steam and build interest, maybe it's because we don't have the money or the same combative news style that pushed this all to the forefront. Maybe we're simply not that dramatic.

Be that as it may - and it may be all those things - I can't help but ask:

Where's our Obama?

And why aren't more people pissed that we don't have a leader with that kind of passion?

Because, like I've said before, as much as I appreciate his politics - as much as I appreciate his message, he is not a Canadian and he will not be looking out for Canadian interests. (And don't even get me started on if McCain manages to squeak one out...).

Nothing against the man - I have to admit, I've heard his speeches and been moved, I've watched his interviews and laughed at the SNL spots - but when the chips are down, he'll be looking out for the Americans who elected him. Not us.

It's a hard thing hear after learning so much about him, after growing to like the man and his message; After wanting to see him triumph over the crotchety old goat and the kooky racists and the politics of Fear. It's great drama.

Heck, drama is what the American News Machine does best, it's their bread and butter -- and it's really tasty butter.

But it's not our butter.

Already today I've had 5 people I know, 5 people whom I know DID NOT VOTE in our recent election, ask me if I was for Obama; Ask me what I thought would happen if McCain managed to get in.

And while it's a scary thought, I'm finding that it's the least of my concerns. I'm concerned that we are fine with being apathetic in the face of leaders that don't inspire us; I'm concerned that we have no direct way of saying to the political parties - who supposedly represent us - "No, we don't like any of your choices for leader, go back and choose another" before our own tax dollars are on the line.

Tonight, as our closest ally goes to the polls in the biggest election of a generation, as they elect a leader that has inspired them and earned their votes. It's time for Canadians to look inward and ask why we allowed ourselves to be so limited in our choices. Why we allowed 300 million dollars of our money to be spent to elect leaders that we all gave a collective 'Meh' about.

And while we're at it, maybe we should ask ourselves 'why' we can't directly vote for the leader of our nation? Why it has to go through an intermediary? Why we're forced to link our vote - knowing that voting for a good leader at the local level may put a mediocre (or outright bad) leader into power as Prime Minister?

If there's one thing to take to heart from the, frankly, rousing campaign down South it's that if we want better leaders, we have to demand them - we have to search them out, we have to help make them and raise them up.

However, with that said, the people pushed before us at the end of the day are only the party's 'default settings'. They're the base-level factory models. We have to work to customize our leaders - tell them what's important to us, make our problems their problems. And if they can't or won't seem to 'get' it, send'em back and get another. These 'leaders' are our Public Servants. Patrons sent out to represent us - our hopes and our problems - on the world stage, people that we are to trust with our very well-being.

And if we can't feel like we trust them, if we can't feel like any one of them deserves our vote, then we send'em back and demand better.

Right now, as it stands, we can do that best by getting involved early, when the parties are picking their leaders. We can do our research and make our voices heard. We can demand that our media provide better, more in-depth coverage; Demand that our media work for us with the kind of unbiased journalism we expect. Helping to present us with the resources we need to make up our own minds.

I know it sounds like I'm talking crazy talk, but it's really not that hard. The change is really only as hard as we make it. We have to demand better - from everyone along the line - but we also have to put our money where our mouth is: We have to buy the papers that offer the best, most unbiased coverage. We have to watch the news broadcasts that earn our viewership by being non-partisan (not 'fair and balanced'), that go out of their way to keep us in the loop. We have to donate to the leaders we believe in and work as one to keep them on the level.

If we do this, if we get involved and put our hearts into the process of maintaining our Democracy, if we get out there and do it loud enough and long enough, I guarantee you, we'll get what we want:

A leader that's better than we deserve.


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