“I’m not political,” is one of the most political statements you can say.
When you say you’re not going to vote because you don’t really care, you are telling me that you don’t care about me.
When you say that all candidates have their issues, you’re telling me that you’re too lazy to do your research and critically evaluate these problems.
When you tell me that we’ve survived bad prime ministers before, you’re telling me that people like me are not included in your definition of “we”.
Every election has serious consequences for vulnerable communities. While you may not be affected much by the results of the federal election, most of us aren’t that lucky. Not caring is a sign of privilege. No matter who’s in power, they’re not coming for your rights.
The rest of us, however? We have to bite our nails each election wondering if we’re going to have to try and survive policy changes that will put our health and safety at risk. We wonder if the rhetoric the winner spreads will endanger us. We wonder if we will survive it, because we haven’t always, historically. We have to be political because our very existence is political.
I think of how homophobia, transphobia and whorephobia fuelled the AIDS crisis. As someone born after progress was already being made on a global scale, not just in grassroots queer communities and some medical circles, I know my understanding of the crisis is limited. I never had to live through that era of uncertainty and fear, watching my friends and loved ones die then seeing our community blamed for the illness and dehumanized. I feel so guilty as a queer person that those before me had to suffer and I got to come out and live in a time and place where I was largely accepted. I feel even more guilty that there are queer folks being killed and imprisoned for their sexuality elsewhere in the world while I don’t face that same danger.
What is the difference between me and another gay woman living in, say, Russia? Is there anything fundamentally different between us? No. What’s different is the cultural and political environment we live in. By being born in different countries, we were destined for wildly different lives.
When people tell me that they aren’t political, I know that they will do nothing to prevent our political and cultural environment from becoming one that would see me dead for the crime of loving another woman. I know they will stand by silently while the government turns away from the genocide of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two spirit people. I know they will see the injustices of our country and turn away.
In this day and age, inaction is the strongest action and silence the loudest message. When we try to ignore the grave injustices of our country and our world, we are telling the perpetrators that what they are doing is accepted. The only people who benefit from you staying out of politics are politicians who would do harm and fringe groups desperate for mainstream acceptance.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me,” wrote Martin Neimoller about how he and other German people were complicit in remaining silent while the Nazi regime targeted vulnerable people.
As a white, cisgender person, I am not the first person whose life is at stake when regressive policies begin rolling through our government. I’m not the second or even the third. But as a queer, disabled woman, I’m also not the last. I hope I can use my privilege to prevent growing violence and the risks other folks with marginalized identities face.
That said, the violence is already here. It’s been here. We have been draining Indigenous communities of resources, threatening their access to safe water with pipelines and turning an ignorant eye to hate crimes against them. We have been telling rape victims that they shouldn’t have been at the place or wearing that outfit or talking to that man. We have been excusing the behaviour of racist figures. We are knee deep in a time of growing violence.
And you’re still not “political”?