Though I wasn’t born into politics, I have had the opportunity to be involved in the political process at various levels, from various positions. Of the lessons I have learned along the way, two in particular stick out:
1) what happens in politics impacts each and every one of us in myriad ways, whether we’re aware of it or not and
2) through political involvement, it is possible to make a difference for yourself and your community (or province/country) – if you make the effort.
Now, some people will say “I’m not interested in politics,” while others will tell you “all politicians are the same, they promise everything to get your vote then do nothing, so why should I bother.” To the first; as the decisions made by our elected officials impact, in some shape or form, every aspect of our lives – the services and opportunities that are available to us, and the taxes we pay – you kinda owe it to yourself and your family to start getting interested. You’re going to be effected one way or the other.
For the second; it’s important to remember that we live in a truly democratic society. We’ve got a free press that can write what it likes; every-day citizens can march up and down in front of Parliament Hill, reciting their concerns to the world; we can register our reactions to political decisions in letters-to-the-editor, online or on the streets without having to worry about being disappeared; in Canada, we are extremely privileged to have real opportunities to bring about change that most of the world can only envy. I’ve been places where those sorts of rights simply don’t exist; it’s important that we recognize we DO have those rights, and even more important that we exercise them. Indeed, we have a responsibility to hold our elected officials to task throughout their terms of service; you’re in a difficult position if you complain politicians never listen to you if you haven’t made an effort to be heard.
In our system, there is always a way to get your message across. It isn’t always easy, but if you are committed enough to a cause, whatever that cause may be, you will be heard. Book a meeting with your local representative to tell them what your issue is; better yet, bring a researched, feasible plan to address it with you, and get as many folks as you can to say they agree with your position. Organize a letter-writing campaign. Make rational arguments, be focused, creative, polite and persistent, and you will get your message through. Not every issue can be addressed in the way an individual wants, but if you get your message through to the decision makers, they’ll at least have a chance to mull it over as they make those decisions.
Of course, it’s far easier to ensure your positions are being considered by politicians when you work directly to ensure that those who do get elected believe in the same things you do. Apart from voting, you just need to find a political party that holds your views (or a majority of your views, as a 100% match is rare), or a candidate you believe in, and support them. Talk to your friends about them. Donate money to help their cause. Let the people know why you support them. Get to know your candidate, and tell them what issues matter to you. The best way to work on getting the changes you want is to become involved directly yourself – that's the way to make a difference.
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