Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted May 1, 2016


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a personal commentary

A Fragile Democracy

by Spiritual Echo

Each and every one of us is guilty of filtering, or priding ourselves, depending on one's point of view, through opinions harvested within a lifetime of experiences, living the life granted by birthright and choice.

As a Canadian, I live a stone's throw away from the American border. I've travelled extensively throughout the United States and always felt at home. My American cousins spoke the same language, albeit spelling varied. Americans never understood why I wanted vinegar for my French fries, and I surely will never understand white gravy, but these differences are dismissed when serious issues are on the table.

We both got to this side of the world because we originally had a mutual contempt for the English and the French--both monarchies. Some historian could probably explain the birth of democracy, or why a group of men on this side of the Atlantic had the foresight and conviction to draft and enact into law The United States Constitution.

I understand and respect how this incredible document continues to be the foundation and framework for freedom and liberty for all. Canada did not become a country until well over one hundred years later. Our Bill of Rights, without question, borrowed tenets from the democracy south of our border.

If I had a choice, I would have wished my family, housed in a displaced person's camp in Germany, would have had the choice and picked the US--specifically Florida so I never had to suffer harsh winters.

But there were few choices, and I have no regrets, no shame. I am a proud Canadian. I love this country. I'm proud of our accomplishments and how we are regarded by the global community. Living in this country, in comparison to US citizenship, has both advantages and drawbacks when individual issues are examined.

Our population is only ten percent of the US, giving us fewer citizens to support the social programs this country chose as a priority. We have had universal Medicare for almost seventy years. Especially now, while I sneak into old age, I am supremely grateful that my health care is not determined by an employer's contribution or my personal wealth. If it is decided that I need expensive surgery, it doesn't matter what assets I may have. My care is a given--whether I am a millionaire or a bum someone swept up off the streets.

Business exposed me to many young American women who wanted families, but were still penalized by their desire to have children. They traded off sick days, vacation times and state legislated maternity leave to allow these women to remain home with their babies--just a little bit longer. The first time I told an expectant mom that Canadian law allowed parental leave up to one year; the woman's face melted, devastation imploding. At best, she'd negotiated two or three months of leave, often not even long enough to see her baby's first smile.

It wasn't until a long time later when I considered my information might be interpreted as a swipe at the United States. It was not. It was the truth. Either parent, mother or father, can decide to take time off, collecting unemployment insurance--something around 60% to a maximum of $1500 per month.

The investment we make in children really is our future. With all the violence and the spotlight on mental health, it makes enormous sense to me that the parental bonding and investment in the early days goes a long way in producing responsible adults.

Sometimes, sharing information is not received with the same good intent by which it is offered. Telling an American that another country may be doing something better is treated like an insult and criticism.

Imagine the woman who saved time, booked a daycare spot the minute she knew she was pregnant, worked overtime to buy another week with her baby, has this bloody Canadian telling her if she lived above the border she could be home when her child took his/her first steps.

'Such arrogance. Aren't you our 51st state?'

No, the words were never spoken, but the reaction screamed in volumes. As time passed, I didn't automatically bow to the economic or military power of the United States when forming opinions, but I have never lost respect for the country and its amazing citizens, many from a new wave of immigrants. America REMAINS great because of its people. With a different stroke of a pen, I too could have been an American, but I'm not.

It's easy to pick on America. There's so much material. Even a comic with bad delivery can resonate with an audience, especially in election year. I remember Jon Stewart signing off from The Daily Show with mixed regrets because of Trump's bid for the presidency.

I'm not going to dwell on my political attitudes, but I'll go on record to say that I admired Obama's very real, altruistic intent to make a difference. I continue to respect the man for his resilience in the face of resistance, and his ability to represent America on a global stage without embarrassing or hiding behind his own country's escalating disenchantment.

Anyone who has read my political commentaries does not need to ask where I sit in regard to Trump. I have recently added Ted Cruz to my list of 'you've got to be kidding'. If you need clarification, do send me a PM. I'll be happy to rant. Nor should you assume, that I automatically think Hillary is the best that the US can offer as THE ONLY logical choice. If she had made the comment about 'getting off the reservation' as a Canadian candidate, she'd have been butchered alive by First Nation's spokespeople who are actively seeking a restoration of native rights. I digress...

I'd like to applaud the United States presidential candidates. I sit watching election coverage every day. I'm a political junkie. The campaign is almost a year old, and without exception, these people rise and shine, take centre stage and fight for the glory of taking the reins of the most powerful country on Earth. Their resolve and stamina is impressive. No matter what I think politically, it's tough to ignore the passion and the energy required to amass support.

As I said, I'm a Canadian, and very few people give a damn whether I love or hate Trump. I don't have a vote--but you do. If I can wish for anything, I'd hope that my friends south of the border fully understand and respect their franchise. Vote. Allow your conscience and good sense to cast a ballot and respect the process.

Democracy is a fragile right, dependent on the recipients of this rare global gift. Make a difference and stay involved. It is your country and your future.


 


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