Two years ago, Canadians watched the American presidential race with a kind of horrified fascination as DJT rapidly became the media darling and voice of the seemingly-disenfranchised Conservative (male, heterosexual, white, predominantly-Christian) right. That horrified fascination seemed to suit us so well as we kept repeating among ourselves, sotto voce, over and over, “Thank the stars, that can NEVER happen here.”
Except… it just did.
Last week’s provincial election swept into the Premier’s office a man who a very great many have likened to being DJT’s “mini-me” in terms of projected values, ethics, and “spare the rich” platform meant to propagate further harm on the lower classes, women, minorities and marginalized others. I watched the election results on a live-updating map as the polls closed Thursday night with a sense of foreboding that swept rapidly down the toilet into outright despair. Then I fled the country for three days because I JUST COULD NOT.
The majority of voters did NOT vote for Ford Nation, but as happens in a multi-party system, the split between non-Conservative votes left a track large enough for Ford and the Progressive Conservatives to land a majority provincial government and completely eradicate party status for the outgoing Liberal party. I wanted so much to believe that a dangerously-ignorant egomaniac like Ford would prove to be the best thing to ever happen to the New Democratic Party, but it didn’t work out that way.
And I, like many others of my party, despaired outright. I don’t for a moment believe, as one friend dangerously suggested, that “we get the government we deserve”, because I sure as hell don’t believe I deserve what the Ford Conservatives are about to unleash on this province. Not as a woman, not as a queer/queer-ally, not as a mental health worker, not as someone who has spent significant time in recent years struggling to make enough income to keep my head above the poverty line.
A wiser friend wrote something about the fact that the work that needs to be done now to protect and support our vulnerable communities, to hold this threatening government as accountable as possible, is work that has always needed to be done–is work these marginalized communities have already, always, been doing. We stand to learn a lot by taking our lead from them. They’ve been fighting both openly and with the political equivalents of guerrilla tactics forever. Those of us occupying more privileged positions but with social consciences have an opportunity to do more, do differently… DO BETTER. To said wiser friend, I commented, “Before election: chop wood, carry water; after election: chop wood, carry water.” There is a tremendous amount of work to be done. That may be truer now than ever.
I have a number of friends who deal with anxiety and depression (both within and without these marginalized communities) who say they can’t possibly do more; personal resources like time and energy are too sparse to participate. I get it, I do. There are still things that we can do to change how we interact with the elected officials in our ridings. Personally, I’ve decided to take a page from one of my best friend’s playbooks; Sheryl made sure that local MPPs for years have known her name, challenging or inviting into debate a succession of elected officials as a way of making sure her voice took up at least SOME space in their official functioning. I don’t have a lot of time to attend rallies and protests–though I suspect a goal in the next 4-5 years is going to be increasing my visibility at such events as I can support–, but man, as a professional writer, I can craft a pointed email like nobody’s business.
It’s not exactly an in-your-face approach to engaging political operatives, but especially for people with either depression and anxiety about engagement, or general conflict-aversion, letter-writing is engagement that can be done over longer periods of time (for those worried about word choice), at a distance (not in-yer-face engagement), and still allows us to practice having a voice… even if we don’t have any way of requiring or forcing reciprocal engagement from those receiving our communiques. It still puts us in the conversation, and at least as we’re getting the Resistance Machine organized, is an excellent start.
So, Amy Fee, welcome to office. I have some very strong agenda items I would like to discuss with you. Actually, I want to make sure you start to sigh, or flinch a little, every time your staffers get another letter or email from me, because I take what I do, where I come from, and the people I care about and support, VERY seriously.
I suggest you don’t fuck with them, because I WILL hold YOU accountable as the riding’s elected representative should your party do so.