The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

29 September 2011

Of suffrage and lawn signs

I just read a book which takes place during the time of the women's suffrage movement in England. It's actually a story about coffee, so I would like the chance to talk to the author about how one theme led him to another.

Sadly, I don't know very much about the history of the cause. I say sadly because as a woman of the 21st century I reap the fruit of what those women sowed, and I should know what it took to change a long standing social custom - so that I never take it for granted. I had always imagined it was a peaceful process of reasoned debate, petitions to government, and good intentions. This book painted a very different picture of oppressed women, ridicule, violence, and hunger strikes.

The privilege of voting is on my mind just at the moment because of an upcoming provincial election. Voting is an important ingredient in the democratic process, but Canadians tend to be rather apathetic about exercising their privilege. Statistics indicate that only 60% of registered voters cast a ballot in our federal elections, while a mere 56% do so in the Ontario provincials.

In the run-up to election day it can be quite interesting to walk through the neighbourhood, observing rival lawn signs and imagining the respective home owners gruffly nodding at each other as they leave for work in the morning. Do they have a hard time being civil, remembering that only a month ago they shared BBQ ribs and cold beer, now they are confronted with evidence of each other's political obtuseness?  How does a supporter of The Natural Law Party (they believe in yogic flying) end up on the same street as someone who will vote for the Family Coalition Party of Ontario?  That's the interesting thing, isn't it?  Especially in this day and age where discussing one's political views is taboo in public circles - it's not until the lawn signs go up that you really know who your neighbours are.

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