I’m going to break protocol and get political here for a moment.

With the federal election just three days away, there’s been an uptick in political posts on social media.

Some of them express the view that We Must Get Rid Of This Evil Terrible Vile And Most Certainly No Good Governing Party At All Costs And By Any Means Necessary. Most of the others simply remind people about the importance of voting.

Being the neutral that I am, you’d think I’d take issue with the first group. But I don’t really. I mean, all they’re doing is manifesting the natural course of our democracy. People naturally grow more disenchanted with a governing party over time, and when one party has been in power for too long, the people start to want change. That’s just how it goes. If our other major party takes control in this election and holds it for a while, I can guarantee you that by 2023 Facebook will be filled with posts about how This Party Is The One True Satan And Must Be Destroyed. That’s politics. And I can’t really complain about the hyperbolic content of the posts because, well, just re-read the line above.

My problem is actually with the people reminding other people how important it is to vote.

The first issue I take with this is how matter-of-factly it’s stated, as if it’s just so obviously true that voting is our best chance to make a difference in how we are governed. Anyone who knows me well knows that I disagree with that very, very strongly. I think that there are plenty of ways to have a much greater impact on the government than voting. My disdain for peaceful protests is well-documented, but even those have more of an impact on how we are governed than voting does in my view. I could go into my usual rant about First Past The Post and start cursing the Brits for giving us this flawed system and cursing the electorate for not pushing for change, but I’ll hold myself back from that. It suffices to say that I don’t think it’s patently obvious that voting is something of vital significance.

The other issue – and the bigger one – is the way people talk about the importance of voting with a certain smugness. Sometimes it’s an implicit smugness, and in those cases perhaps I’m just imagining it. It’s hard to judge tone in text, but it often sounds to me like the person is saying “Observe, Facebook friends, that I am an informed and sophisticated citizen. Accompany me to the ballot box this Monday, or I shall consider you to be the lowliest of rubes.”

But maybe I’m wrong about that.

The thing is, some people are explicit about it.

These people typically say something like “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the government that follows.”

I want to be clear: That is a ridiculous statement. Not only is it wrong, but it is offensive to democracy.

One of the great things about this country is that you can criticize the government without having to worry about the police knocking on your door the next day. It’s a basic right, and it’s available to everyone in this country, whether you arrived yesterday afternoon or in 1952.

It’s not conditional on age, it’s not conditional on wealth, it’s not conditional on gender, or sexual orientation, or religion.

And it sure as hell is not conditional on whether you voted in the most recent election.

Think about what you’re saying when you tell someone that they can’t complain because they didn’t vote. You’re telling someone that their complaint on October 16th, 2015 is not justified because they made the decision not to vote on May 2nd, 2011 – One thousand, six hundred, and twenty-nine (1629) days ago.

You’re telling 39% of those who can vote – 9.3 million Canadians – to shut up.

Based on something they chose not to do over four years ago.

Let that sink in a moment.

Some people have even said “If you vote for the party that wins, you’re not justified in complaining about it.” And that’s even crazier, because then you’re saying that that 15 million Canadians can’t complain – leaving only 9 million with a “justified” voice.

To me, that’s offensive. I’m a big believer in letting everyone speak their minds, and silencing individuals or telling them that their opinion doesn’t matter is something which should only be done in the most extreme circumstances. Employing it for something as insignificant as the failure to vote in an election which arises every four years is an affront to democracy.

I don’t tend to post anything I say here on Facebook, but I do think I’ll make a little post on this subject in the next few days, sans vitriol. It’s something that needs to be said.

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