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We are in the middle of a federal election and I, like many others, am disappointed in the attitude of the candidates, media and general public. Everyone seems extraordinarily critical of every mis-step and the media is focusing on drama and personality rather than policy and real impact.
If each of personally held our friends, neighbours and family members to the same standard as we do politicians… I am actually not sure what would happen. What I am trying to say is that we vilify politicians for making mistakes – with what they say, how they spend their money, the relationships they have etc. When someone digs up a historical transgression or we see a high profile person use questionable judgment people are very quick and aggressive in their criticism. But they are just human. We should seek to understand; context and communication will solve more problems than anger.
I have often considered entering politics. I am drawn to helping people, creating policy and creating consensus. I like to meet people, socialize and am good at public speaking – my family history is full of lawyers and politicians. I spend my free time with my family traveling, creating art and volunteering. Do I sound like someone who should be lynch mobbed in the press at every opportunity? I didn’t think so. And the requirement of a ridiculous tough skin has really scared me off entering public office.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting the BC premier Christy Clark and took part in getting her elected as the leader of the Liberal party of BC. Christy is a friendly, charismatic, honest person. And one of the first editorials I read after she was elected was a scathing article on a decision she made about autism services in BC – very personal and critical of Christy personally and instantly jumping to the conclusion that the Liberal party is full of lies. What? Why? Do you know the history behind the decision? Do you really think good people try to make decisions to piss off as many people as possible?
So back to my original question. Would you insist your neighbour left the community if their marriage ended for all the wrong reasons? Would you disown your child for making a bad business deal with one of their friends? Would you quit your job if you boss had to declare bankruptcy due to family illnesses? Everyone is presented with difficult decisions all the time – in theory we know that learning from mistakes is best way to grow. But god forbid a politician makes a mistake – just one could easily end a career that was founded in trying to help society.
What do I want to hear? How will the Liberal policy changes affect me vs the Conservative ones. Not how many out-of-context remarks Harper or Ignatieff have made. I am interested in all of their personal lives – but I want the whole story: how they dealt with challenged and mistakes as well as their illustrious history of successes. I want them to take risks politically and try to make change – and be able to explain their logic. I want them to lead sometimes, and then I want them to listen to Canadians and feel safe changing their mind. Our current expectations and media coverage patterns reinforce a society of sheeple – and I hate it.
I want to go into politics and change it. But if the media doesn’t like the sounds of my voice, how much of a chance would I have? Would I be able to communicate my choices and reasons? On the Christy Clark campaign I was truly surprised at the cut-throat competitive attitude between previously cooperative Liberals. Friends may still be friends, but on the campaign trail they were all about personal jabs and degrading the opponent. And I don’t mean the leadership contenders – but all their assistants and supporters.
Politics should be about cooperation and transparency. And believe or not – it starts with you, not the leaders. Read the stories that support open communication – don’t buy the magazines that pit one leader against another with bad quotes and visuals. Ask questions, seek to know both sides of every story – don’t jump to conclusions. If you want to influence the media – talk with your clicks and your wallet. If you want to influence politicians – get involved in the process and communicate to your leaders about what you expect. The media and the election campaigns are only trying to entice you to support their camp – be open minded and honest with each decision, they will cater to your expectations.