A few weeks ago, I realized I was feeling really politically winded. Apathetic almost. I sat with the feeling for a while, wondering from whence it came. Sure, I tear up at the radio newscasts regularly, fascists are gaining ground everywhere and the prospect of ecological collapse is impending, but let’s be honest, this wasn’t really new.
With the news of Paul Dewar’s prognosis and his launching of Youth Action Now, it hit me. I realized what it was. Ever since I moved out of my parents’ house, I have lived (until recently) in ridings with progressive, can-do, Members of Parliament. When I got back from a study stint in Sweden–a country I had chosen because of its feminist and democratic traditions–I lived in Paul Dewar’s riding. I got to vote for a progressive who got elected. And re-elected. I saw him at events and received prompt responses back when I sent him letters about issues that mattered to me. He agreed with me. Every time. It was empowering to know that I was represented by someone who had strong progressive stances, and by someone who could, would and did make things happen. When I moved to Halifax, my MP was none other than Megan Leslie. And when I moved back to Ottawa for the Parliamentary Internship Programme, I was again represented by Paul Dewar. I even got to work in the same gorgeous spaces and see his integrity and deep care firsthand.
Now I live in a riding represented federally by someone who won’t get back to me when I get in touch looking for help sorting out dental insurance for refugees and whose office’s hands are tied when I call and write about getting very large graffitied swastikas removed from a highway overpass. It hurts my heart. But more than that, their complacency engenders apathy and cynicism in me. It’s sapped a lot of the respect I have for the institutions of our parliamentary democracy.
I think a lot about agency. About what it is that fosters this sense of oneself as being able to create change–the political imagination and roll-up-your-sleeves resourcefulness. Having a Member of Parliament who politically had my back and who, I knew, was in the business of helping constituents, made a world of difference for me. How beautifully formative. It’s had a tremendous impact on my confidence that initiatives that strive for greater equality and justice can–with stick-to-it-iveness and elbow grease–get off the ground and find their champions.
I have so missed living in a riding represented by Paul Dewar. I wish I had taken the time to write to him to let him know.
Reading his words, I recommit to doing my utmost to rekindle my sense of political agency and to shift my focus to community building when politics get me down.