Leighton Zink: Taking Polite Conversation to the Polls

Maybe it’s just a product of my uneventful year in high school, but I get the feeling that every time I am roped into even the most casual of conversations, the topic invariably turns to politics. Either that or the Blue Jays.

I suppose it’s simply one of those things you pull out in order to carry along a polite patch of small-talk or throw around as Thanksgiving dinner winds to a close. A topic so universal and worn-out, that just about anyone can recite a few newspaper headlines and piece together an informed opinion.

And yet despite our fascination with the unfolding show, I have an easy time feeling removed from the real product of democracy. I’m just a kid who can barely keep up with the Kardashians—let alone an entire country—what does my voice matter? What does my vote matter?

See, I have a habit of believing that the world I live in isn’t quite the same as the rest of humanities’. Voting? Oh, that’s the sort of thing I let my parents handle. The future of our country? That’s a ways down the road.

Yet these days I am reminded far too often that we’re all further along that road than even I would care to admit. In only a handful of years, you and I will be out there in the big world, shopping for real estate and attending workplace Christmas parties. It will be the decisions we make at the polls this Monday that make that big world just a little bit more manageable.

Even if this isn’t your election to vote in, there is always a need for change. Some of us aren’t yet eligible to cast a ballot and there is no shame in that. Hey, I was under 18 for the last 17 years of my life. No, voting certainly isn’t the gold standard for involvement in Canadian politics; write to your local representative, join a political party, pitch in on the campaign trail or just discuss the issues with those around you. There is no shortage of power in the influence of youth.

And for those trapped by that distinct feeling of unpreparedness, believe me when I say that you are not alone. Do you think I went into this semester keen to put together an article on the importance of youth within democracy? The last time I checked there was no political-science degree hanging beside my bed or students addressing me as professor, and while I’d like to give all the credit I can to my high school politics teacher, I am certainly, in no sense of the word, a political “expert.” And yet, here we are.

Now I don’t mean to suggest that you toss your lot in with whichever candidate has the sharpest sense of style or the nicest hair, but there is something to be said for accepting your imperfections. Neither you nor I will ever truly understand all that goes on in the world. Sometimes I will have to write an article pretending that I know more than you, and sometimes you will have to make decisions without knowing the full consequences of your actions. We just have to do our best to make sure things turn out alright in the end, and that’s all anyone can ask for.

You owe it to yourself, and to the rest of the world, to cast an informed ballot this Monday, October 19th. After all, not everyone has the opportunity to speak so meaningfully on the issues of governance. Make sure that in Canada, the voice of youth is heard. That in Canada, your voice is heard.