I have been waiting to write this for over a year.
I remember the Olympics. I remember opposing the original bid, opposing the constant mismanagement, the sacrifices made in budget cut after budget cuts to things I felt were more lasting than an international 10 day party. But they came, and what’s done is done. I remember the smiles, the sunshine, and the spirit of it all. I remember high-fiving police officers and hugging strangers, I remember street parties. I remember Canadians surprising themselves and the world with their sudden, positive, infectious nationalism. We bragged about our mountains and water, our liberal ways, and our ‘free health care’. We made Americans wish they were us. I remember the pride in our humble nation bubbling off the lips of every drunken young person wearing a Canadian flag as a cape. “This is the best place on Earth! I love Canada!” It was amazing.
And I remember then thinking, I hope it sticks. I hope they take that newfound love for their country and they go volunteer. Or clean up their neighborhoods after the party is over. Just get out there and contribute to the nation they love so much. And frankly, I doubt they did. I doubt the nationalist fervour lasted beyond the last drunken street party. But I hope I’m wrong. And of course it’s easy to love your country when the world is watching, when the miraculous weather made our lovely city shine like a West Coast paradise. When magical political Photoshop made the Downtown East Side all but disappear from consciousness. When we forgot the cost, literally and figuratively of the whole ordeal. But now, more than ever, we need to remember that feeling.
Something is happening here. On May 2nd we have the chance to show our country how much we really love it. The world has watched as the young people of Libya and Egypt stood up for their rights. Consider Tunisia, where the whole movement began – where 20% of adults are illiterate, where citizens receive an average of 6.5 years of education (compared to our 11.5), where 14.2% of the population is unemployed despite their best efforts to seek employment. Where Muhammad Bouazizi chose to light himself on fire after government officials violated his human rights and refused to listen to him, sparking a massive anti-government uprising.
We have something here people would die for, and it’s not a mountain view. It’s a vote, and a voice. The chance to influence the future of our dear nation. And if voter turnout remains as low as it has in the past, it will prove to me that the Olympic legacy is as shallow as I always feared it would be. If you were old enough to be drunk and wearing a flag as a cape a year ago, you are old enough to vote. And if you love your country now as much as we all did during those 10 incredible days, you will get yourself to the polls on Monday.
Check out these links for more information:
Elections Canada – for information on how and where to vote
UN Human Development Index – where the statistics from this post came from, and where you can find more startling information on the state of education, health care, and equality across the globe
Reporters Without Borders – an organization that collects data on freedom of press internationally (note the downward trend in Canada’s ranking since the Harper government took over)