Are you planning to vote in Ontario's election on June 12th? What does your child think about that?
With any luck, you and your children are looking at election posters, hearing candidates speak on radio and television, seeing newspaper headlines -- and asking questions.
You might be surprised to learn that even young children are capable of thinking critically, seriously and consciously about citizenship. After all, children can have a very strong sense of fairness. They know that being a decision maker is better than waiting for someone else to make decisions for them. Why else would little children yell, "NO, I want to do it myself!"?
But what about adults? Why are fewer and fewer of us bothering to vote? If the kids want to do it themselves, what happened to the rest of us? Are we sitting back because we think our opinions no longer matter? Are we feeling that others make better decisions for us than those we make on our own behalf? Or have we stopped caring altogether? And it isn't just in Canada where this is happening. Democracies around the world are suffering voter disappearance. Unless you live in a country where failing to vote is a punishable offence in law, fewer and fewer people are showing up at the polls.
It is time to think about our kids. And by this I do not mean that every adult should go out and vote at random, just to be a role model who commits the act of voting. We need to spend some time consciously thinking about our decision to vote or not to vote and critically examine this decision.
If you have chosen not to vote, what do you tell your child? If you are you waiting for the perfect human to run in your riding, boy, do I have news for you! That perfect human has abstained from elections for as long as humans have had governments. If you are making your decision on this basis, you could be teaching your children that only perfection is worthy. There are a lot of charlatans out there who would like us to believe they offer perfect solutions for society's problems. Is that something you really want your kids to believe?
While you may have decided that no single candidate merits your vote, there may be a political party whose general view on how things should be done is closer to your own than others. And then again, there may be no such party. The real question is, do you know? Have you listened to the candidates, read the party platforms, and heard people you respect discussing the issues? If you have taken the time to do these things and then made a decision whether or not to vote, you are the kind of engaged citizen you probably want your child to be.
If, on the other hand, you can't be bothered to pay attention and have decided that your vote won't matter anyway, you may unconsciously be setting an example that your children will follow.
If we want to live in a viable democracy, we have to be willing to think critically and to take some risks. There never were and never will be perfect candidates, because they, like us and our children, are human. Viktor Frankl said, "Being human means being conscious and being responsible."
When you make a conscious decision about voting on June 12th, and talk with your children about your decision, you will be helping to develop the kind of engaged and independent citizens upon which democracy depends. You are showing them how to do it themselves.
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