Wednesday, December 10, 2008

political opinions

I've been hesitant to blog about the latest political flurry that has swelled around Ottawa for the past couple of weeks. Not because I don't have opinions. But there is certainly no dearth of political opinions these days on the Internet, in newspapers, on the radio...

For anyone not living in Canada or with little interest in politics, our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who was elected in October of this year with about 38% of the popular vote, essentially lost the confidence of the House of Parliament. Two opposition parties, with the support of the third, formed a coalition which threatened to bring down the government. Harper appealed to our Governor General (the Queen's representative) to prorogue government until January 26. To the relief of some, the dismay of others, she granted his request.

Like many others, I have been caught up in this political drama - one awash with discussions of constitutional rights, democratic ethics, and a revival of rhetoric of Quebec separatism. But what I'm realizing is that what makes my blood boil, makes others rejoice. What I celebrate, others scorn. Where I may be indifferent, others are up in arms. Unlike during any election campaign, I am becoming very aware of all of our differences.

Facebook, usually my source for light-hearted updates from friends far and wide, has revealed itself as another platform for political expression. I read friends expressing political opinions completely contradictory to my own and, I admit, I find this a little disconcerting. It's easy to say, 'let's just agree to disagree', but now that you know where I stand, and I know where you stand, will it be awkward next time we meet?

I rarely try to change people's opinions, and certainly not when it is against their will. I love debating with people of differing views when everyone honestly seeks to understand an issue and all are willing to put aside previously held views if a better option can be proved. But such debates rarely happen, especially not during heated moments such as the current political crisis.

This leaves me in a bit of a quandary. I believe in political expression - and have been ready to take to the streets - but I don't think my expressions will change anyone's entrenched opinions. But perhaps that isn't the point. Perhaps by expressing our views we hope to urge those who have not formed an opinion to do so (albeit preferably on 'our side') and more importantly, we want to tell our government that we are watching, and we do care.

If this is what democracy looks like, I guess it's pretty messy.

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