Let’s start off with the chapter “What Does it Mean to be Canadian Living in America During an Election”: As legal aliens of the US of A, we are NOT allowed to donate to a party, nor allowed to vote. We are allowed to post signs, watch CNN, and as it turns out, we can volunteer. Living here, and watching how the Presidential race is unfolding, it definitely brings a sense of helplessness. I find what Hillary, and Donald are talking about apply to my daily life, but I don’t necessarily have an official voice that can be heard as I am not a citizen. I have to wait for the American people to make their choice in just under 50 days (50 MORE days!…). Now, we could say “one vote doesn’t make a difference anyways”, but not us! We Canadians have our 2 Hillary signs hanging proudly in our window, and since we can’t vote, we decide to volunteer to register voters.
It’s our first shift, and it’s at a music festival. Seems fun. To be honest, we’re both really nervous. What are people going to ask? Do we know enough? Can come out as Canadians?
I look to Derrick and say “this is important. It’s good we’re doing this”, knowing this is definitely out of my comfort zone. The last time I went door to door was selling chocolates in high school. I’m more of a buyer than a seller. Maybe that’s a good enough reason to do this. As we walk up to meet our organizer, I’m ready for a booklet to read, key facts to know, or a role overview. We’re handed a clipboard, given a few general dos and don’ts, and are set out to talk the masses. We look at each other, and kind of shrug. 3 hours. Here we go.
15 minutes later. It seems like we’ve been at it for hours. No one is stopping. For two usually comfortable and confident people, we are sounding rather meek and timid. I am definitely hiding behind my clipboard. Derrick is looking defeated. Why does this seem so hard?
Part of the challenge was our goal: Get people registered. Realistically, many people at this point already are registered. So we were looking for 1 in a 1000. Secondly, we’re at a huge music festival where many of the attendees are drunk, not in the headspace to think politics, or… both.
Yet the biggest challenge was for a place that likes to tweet and likes to talk, no one wanted to dialogue. Near the end of our shift, we approach 2 guys sitting on a bench. I decide to give it one more try. “Hello” I said, and without even pausing, they say, “don’t bother, we’re Republican”. And that is it.
As we hand in our clipboards, I am grateful that my shift is over, I am grateful that I was able to contribute, and even more so, I am so grateful that there are so many stronger volunteers doing this work daily. This is hard, unsung, important work. Somewhat ashamed, I don’t know if I have the strength to come back again.
Walking home, I realize how much more I need to learn, yet pause to acknowledge how much, even during my 3 hours, I have learned. There is a growing apathy and a strong entitlement without any drive to take action. America really is a different country than Canada, yet when it comes to politics, there are a lot of similarities. There is no dialogue. It’s me versus you. It’s a wall. I have been taught not to talk about politics, so we don’t. And then we get stuck. It’s powerless. It’s emotional, and most of us just say “I don’t want to talk about it”. Personally, I need to find ways to talk about what I’m really passionate about, and find more effective ways to listen. We can be stronger together.
I’m hopeful that people will realize what’s at stake. There is this made up superficial rule that we must declare ourselves one or the other: Democrat or Republican. I’d like to believe we are more than that.
Wherever you are in the world, I encourage you to start talking openly about politics. Talk openly with your neighbors, your family. With people who view things differently than you. With people who live a different story than you. Listen, and learn. Argue without the fire. And if you can vote, vote.
So if you are an American Citizen, and you’re considering not voting, vote for me and all of those who live here but can’t. And for our global neighbours whom the USA impacts (i.e. Everyone). Please register to vote.
And about volunteering: The next time I see a volunteer on the streets, I’m going to stop for a moment, start a dialogue, and say thank you. I may not end up volunteering again, but I will ask questions when I don’t understand, I won’t accept blame as an answer on why someone supports a candidate, and I will dig deeper into my beliefs to ensure I am helping build an even greater America starting today.
Song of the Day: Mad World (by Tears for Fears)
A bonus Voter FAQ (good for all to be in the know!): If you an American citizen, and you have not registered to vote yet CLICK HERE RIGHT NOW 🙂 Need to register as an Absentee or for early voting? Here is your answer! In Pennsylvania the deadline to register is October 11, so don’t delay! If you live outside of PA, check with your state as dates can differ. If you have already registered, good job! November 8: it’s all over! PLEASE make sure you vote; prioritize it! Also, learn about your House and Senate candidates. Although they often aren’t as flashy, nor do they get as much coverage, they ARE very important. Congress is an important branch of the US government that doesn’t get the attention, nor demand for accountability that they deserve.
The US system is confusing. Electoral colleges, state by state rules and guidelines… even now I have 4 pages open trying to make sense of it all. Let’s turn to my friends at wikipedia to help us out.
Interested in volunteering!? Just go here (… or here)
But hey, let’s simplify everything you really need to know: VOTE.
One comment on “When Canadians Can’t Vote… We Volunteer”
[…] for. Diversity, debates, open minds and open hearts. The huge crowd was energized (remember if you’re American, vote!). I asked Obama if he’d see a movie with me. He pretended he didn’t hear me. […]