So I am listening. I am listening to posts you graciously shared with me when I asked you what you valued in this country. They were lovely values: Clean air and clean water. An incredible environment. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Peace and prosperity. A society that cares and takes care of others when needed. A spirit of volunteerism. Caring for our neighbours at home and in the world. A concern for justice. A classless social structure. The freedom to fulfill one’s dreams.
To these, I would add my own values: a cultural mosaic rather than a melting pot; social and health safety nets, which while not perfect, ensure that we have access to the services we need; education; and a general acknowledgement that there are problems that need fixing and a will to do so. On this Thanksgiving Day weekend, we especially remember all these wonderful qualities and are thankful.
I listened to what you didn’t say: a balanced budget, financial security (is there such a thing?), law and order, lower taxes. Yet, so much of the election debate is focussed on these things.
I listened to what the leaders didn’t say. Mostly, with the exception of one party leader, they haven’t been talking about climate change, one of the biggest elephants in the room. They didn’t talk about the huge challenge we have in dealing with aboriginal issues, nor did they propose starting over on this issue. They didn’t talk about living within a global context, and being dominated by forces bigger than ourselves – big money, big powerful neighbour, big fears.
I listened to people talk when I went to the all-candidates forum held this week. I was struck by the excellent candidates and their eloquent presentations about what they consider to be important, by the credentials they represented – so many hours of volunteer service in so many worthy causes. I listened to the murmurs in the mostly respectful crowd when someone said something they just couldn’t believe. It occurred to me that people are engaged by stories more than by facts and figures.
I listened to people in shops and stores. One man yesterday told me he’d gone to the advance poll, and had to wait more than an hour to vote. “But it’s all good, it’s all good,” he beamed. “We live in a country where we can vote. Isn’t that great?”
I listened to Facebook posts. Some I didn’t like it all, and they set my inner crow to shaking the bars of her cage. But I kept my beak shut (mostly) unless I found I could engage in meaningful, not reactive dialogue. I also listened to thought-provoking posts that opened my eyes to truths I had not considered. Sometimes, we need to understand that people say what they say because they have experiences I haven’t had. When we are confronted by rants and fearmongering, we can choose to view life as a fearful scary experience so that we must protect ourselves against all possible problems, or as an experience that challenges us to rise up and do better. I choose hope. And in Canada, we have that choice.
I listened to stories. The newspapers and media are full of stories in this week leading up to Thanksgiving, stories about people who came to this land as refugees and immigrants, and who have an ongoing love affair with our country. They teach me to value even more the good that we can do in this world if we have the will to do it.
I listened to voices way wiser than mine by reading and researching. This week, the book beside my reading chair is What’s Happened to Politics?, written by Bob Rae. Yes, he’s often been vilified, but as someone who has participated in politics all his life, he has a unique perspective. This was an enlightening, informative read, and a clear explanation of how global involvement has affected this land and its policies. He calls for parties to work together to solve the problems and meet the challenges. It occurs to me that Rae has been NDP and Liberal, but it seems he also has a tinge of Green in his blood!