I went to pour myself a lousy cup of coffee at the snack table. One of the workshop participants came up to me and struck up a conversation. For the most part, the coffee break talks were about the situation in his country. Iraq was engulfed in violence. What the Americans called the Iraq war, he and other Iraqi participants called the occupation.
“You just had an election in Quebec a few months ago, didn’t you?” he asked me.
I nodded. “The same party stays in power.” My answer betrayed neither satisfaction nor disappointment. It just was. I remember that day in December 2008 as being bitterly cold; by the end of my work day, the last thing I wanted to do was get back in my car and drive to the polling station, but I did anyway.
He added enough sugar in his coffee to make me squirm my face in mild disgust. “I heard just over half the people voted,” he went on. “Why is it such a low number?”
“It was cold.” But then again so was every other day in December. I conceded I didn’t know the answer. “To tell you the truth, I’m not sure, but I don’t think people care all that much. Every government makes its promises, fulfills some, reneges on others, always makes our taxes go up and our services go down. Doesn’t matter much who you vote for.”
“But doesn’t Quebec want to separate?” he asked.
“I think most people realize that health care, jobs, education and the economy are more important right now,” I replied.
He thought about this for a moment as a frown formed on his brow. “I would die to get the chance to vote. I’d wait in line, I’d risk being attacked, but I’d still do it. It’s the one chance I have to express myself. Everyone has a say. For me it’s impossible not to vote. It makes no sense. You live in a country where everything seems so good, and yet people don’t care.”
His story helps me push aside my apathy every time an election nears. His words are a simple reminder that, even though the candidates and their parties during this upcoming Quebec election do not give me much hope or confidence for a better tomorrow, I really have to get off my ass and vote. So I will.