Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's Election Day!

Well, America, today is your day to make history, whether you're voting for the first black president in U.S. history or the first woman vice-president. (Honestly, I hope neither of these things actually comes into play when you're making your vote.) This election has been endlessly fascinating to me, more so because I, a Canadian, have deigned to actually write about it on my blog. I've had my supporters, and I've had detractors. I have legions of Anonymous posters who rip my posts to shreds, hiding behind the secrecy of anonymity. And while there are some readers who have fought me on my anti-Republican views, when they do it with a real name, I have a lot more respect for them and encourage the debates. (Interestingly, someone directed me to this article about how the Internet has become rife with Anonymous posters who can hide behind their anonymity.) I've received emails from people who share my beliefs, and some extremely hateful emails from people who don't. They say you should never talk about politics and religion, and you'll be safe. I, for one, will be glad to get back to talking about television.

Does that mean I should be taking the safe route and never bringing up anything controversial? Should I "SHUT THE F**K UP" as one person emailed me yesterday and not show my support for the leader I believe in? No. If I did, I'd be as cowardly as my anonymous posters. In Canada, the right to free speech is one held close to our hearts, and in the US, last time I checked, the First Amendment allowed you to do the same thing. So here are my thoughts on the day Americans could change the world.

First, I want to say how proud I am of the people who read my blog, with the exception of a few people who've emailed me hate mail or pictures of angry extremist Muslims saying these are the people who Obama will be supporting (isn't that like showing people holding posters of dead fetuses and saying those are the people McCain is supporting? Because neither is true). Of the people who have commented here on my board, even the rudest people seem to be intelligent and thoughtful, and I've only had one person who bordered on pure hate mail (happily, my more informed readers shouted him down). I was on other boards yesterday and was shocked by the stupidity, racism, sexism, bigotry, and general hatred that exists out there. It makes me sad that we are so divided, but also happy that those people -- including the guy who said he was in the "Klu" Klux Klan -- aren't here. Maybe they are, but they've luckily kept their mouths shut. So thank you for being here, for being thoughtful and considerate in your responses, whether you're a Republican, Democrat, or independent. I mean that.

Secondly, on a personal level, I want you to know that just because the main thing I blog about is television does not make me the village idiot. I'm tired of people saying, "Get back to writing about television!" as if I know nothing about anything else. Yes, my main thing is television, but I spend hours of unpaid time keeping up this blog, and if I want to occasionally talk about something else, I can. If you don't want to read it, you can skip the post that day. But I am an informed individual with many interests outside of television. I'm not going to list my achievements -- academic or otherwise -- because I don't think anyone cares. But if you are here reading this blog, then you clearly have discerning taste when it comes to television, and believe there is a lot of TV out there that can challenge and provoke, and that's what I write about. So to turn around and tell me to get back to writing about TV, with a little pat on my head and a "Aw, isn't she cute when she gets all political?? :::giggles:::" attitude is kind of missing the point. Oddly enough, when I do "get back to writing about TV" and post a Tina Fey as Sarah Palin sketch with barely a comment, I'm STILL attacked. When it comes to politics, you can't win, even if you're just saying you thought a particular comedian was funny.

Also, just because I'm a Canadian doesn't mean I'm not informed. I have read a ton on all candidates. When Sarah Palin was first announced as McCain's running mate, I reserved judgment of her and suggested others do as well because all I knew about her was that she was from Alaska and had 5 children, and that latter point alone made me want to bow down before her. I was skeptical about Obama; he was young, seemed a little inexperienced, and I wondered if he was just carrying us all along on the wave of his speech. I've known a lot of people who have little substance but tons o' style when they speak. McCain was the guy I knew from the Daily Show who always seemed funny, at ease, and making snide remarks about Bush. Before Palin was on the ticket, I said I'd be happy if either one of them came in, because they'd be a vast improvement over Bush. But then I did the reading, I watched the debates, I remained informed, and I realized Obama is a lot more than a big speech, Palin should perhaps stay away from public speaking, and McCain isn't the "maverick" he'd like us all to think he is. So I said what I thought. That is my opinion, and despite what the few anonymous posters think, I have the right to give it.

Some Americans are annoyed by Canadians or other foreigners who comment, editorialize, and have opinions about their election. They think we should butt out, since this isn't our country. But if I were an American, I'd take that as a compliment. Most Canadians barely cared about our last election, much less anyone outside of our country. But what you might not understand is you are voting for someone whose policies and actions affect EVERYONE on this planet. I have been paying through the roof for the gas in my car, as has everyone else in Canada and around the world. That has nothing to do with any Canadian policy. Canadians are currently in Afghanistan and Iraq on peacekeeping missions. We might not have invaded Iraq, but we are still there, and our soldiers are dying. A friend of mine and dear colleague was a soldier on a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan and went into a small village. As a show of faith, he removed his helmet and sat it on the ground in front of him, then pulled out a notebook and asked the villagers to tell him what they needed -- food, clothes, water, etc. -- and he would do the best he could to accomodate that. A young man from the Taliban walked up behind him and embedded an axe in the back of his head. When I heard the news the next day, I broke down in sobs, thinking of his infant daughter and his fiance. We all thought he would die, but he lived, and has spent the last three years relearning basic motor skills.

So don't tell a Canadian we have no stake in what's going on in this world.

The American economy is falling apart. That affects us and every other nation. In high school and university, Canadians take American history courses and American political science courses. We know how your system works, we know the history of your great country. Most Americans have no idea what the name of our prime minister is. You probably don't have to, simply because Canadian policy barely registers on your radar, much less affects your day-to-day life. The majority of Canadians own a passport; the majority of Americans do not. Maybe that means you don't have to be aware of the world that exists outside your borders, but there is one there, and it's one that looks to you for so much. But when the American economy goes down the tankhole, the rest of the world goes with it. Your dollar sinks, it affects us. The United States is our #1 trading partner. I work for a company that has lost thousands of dollars in the exchange rate alone, based on the books we export to the US. On a personal level, I, too have lost a lot of money on my own book sales in the US because of the sinking economy. And if you own an RRSP in Canada, it's likely you own shares in several American companies and lost a lot of money there, too. I know I have.

So please, please don't tell me what happens in the United States has absolutely nothing to do with me, and it's none of my business.

We are so lucky. If you are between the ages of 18 and 60, you are a voter who has never lived through a world war. You can sit back and take your right to vote for granted, because you didn't personally know people who died to maintain a democracy for you. You've never known the fear of having no recourse for having your rights stripped. My grandparents were proud of their right to vote, because their parents were from a time where the women couldn't, and the men had to die in battle for it. But we HAVE THAT RIGHT now, and when I see people posting on my blog that voting doesn't matter, it's not a duty, it's not a responsibility, it makes me so sad.

You are making an incredibly important decision today, and regardless of which way you vote, if you are informed, that's what matters. Vote for the party that best speaks to your needs. Vote for the party that you think will effect the change you need in your life right now. Vote for the party who will do the most for you.

The rest of the world is watching you today, sitting on our hands, unable to do a thing, while you make a decision that affects us deeply, in our day-to-day lives. I can say whatever I want, and you can take it, leave it, or ignore it. It's entirely your decision. I can verbally support the person I like because I have an informed opinion.

But guess what: that's ALL I can do. If you're an American reading this right now, you have the ability to do so much more.

The world is not against you. You have a rich history with a diverse population, and two incredible candidates running for president of that remarkable country today. We are standing with you, eager to see what will happen tonight. And no matter what the outcome, it will affect all of us.