We are the Great Hope

Yesterday, Canada had an election. Maybe you heard about it. Because I am on the West Coast, and the votes started being counted on the East Coast while we were still able to vote, I had to wait until 7:00 pm to hear the man on the radio say We are projecting a Conservative Majority Government. (USians, that’s like Bush winning. Again.)

The hour between 6 and 7 was not especially pleasant and not because of the election. It was unpleasant because of ordinary, regular family life. Because the hour between 6 and 7 is pretty universally unpleasant in houses containing small children. So when the man on the radio, with one short sentence, crushed all hope of a kinder, gentler, more socialist government, I really did feel ill. Sure, it was only a projection, and the West coast results hadn’t been counted and anything can happen. But it doesn’t, usually.

I have learned over the years, watching Gordon Campbell — our premier who drove drunk, got caught, apologized and continued leading the province — win year after year, not to hope. I have learned, watching the people of Canada twice (now three times) vote for a person who doesn’t respect the rights of everyone in the country equally, a person who was found in contempt of parliament and who still had the gall to blame others for the election we were just put through, not to hope.

I surround myself with people who think like me, forgetting that me and 20 people do not a majority make. (Nor does our current electoral system, but I will leave it to someone else to rant about that) There are a whole lot more people in the country who either don’t think like me and my friends, or who do, but don’t vote.

Anyway. I always vote, but I don’t often hope. I thought the Conservatives were going to win again and I even wrote a big long post last week about why I thought that. (Hint: because the Liberal campaign was ass.) But over the weekend, as Jack Layton’s support surged and it looked like there might be enough people mobilized, voting at advance polls, nattering on about how we should all vote. Vote. Vote. I let myself hope. I let myself think, for a couple of days, that the tide was changing and we were going to kick that bum out of office.

So it was sad, on two levels, to hear that not only did the bum not get kicked out of office, but he got more votes than last time. Even though I was right. I like being right but not about stuff like this.

Saint Aardvark and I sat on the couch, drowning our sorrows and tweeting and cracking dumb jokes. We cheered as we watched our MP, Fin Donnelly, win his riding, and we marveled as we watched Jack Layton and the NDP take an unprecedented number of seats across the country, making them a sizable and formidable official opposition. We cheered as Elizabeth May won her riding and a seat as the first Green Party member of parliament. And we went to bed.

I expected to wake sour and miserable. I expected to feel dejected and cranky. But I don’t.

I was in the bathroom and the kids were bickering and I called out, “Remember to be kind to each other.” And I realized: that’s it. All we can do is be kind to each other.

Because we are the hope. We are the people who will, along with a very strong opposition party, continue to watch our leader like a hawk, and call him on his bullshit when he offends, even if he doesn’t apologize (and he won’t, probably). We are the people who will write letters and start campaigns and organize protests when we need to. We are the people who have enough to help the poor, the sick, and the desperate. We can volunteer, and continue to make our art, and help old ladies across the street, and listen to the old guy at the bus stop for five minutes if it makes him feel better. We can pick up the slack where our government leaves off. We can live in their house and follow their rules, but they can’t take our phones away. They can’t ground us. All we can control is what we do.

It is still our country. We make it what it is. Tomorrow I might be cynical again but just for today I feel hopeful.

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