Monday, May 2, 2011
Raising a Rhino
It's fascinating when your kids are old enough to get interested in politics. The recent federal election has captured my daughter's attention, and it's been quite an interesting episode.
I suspect it was the television ads that first caught her eye. My husband and I are decidedly not fans of the negative attack ad style of campaign and we have commented several times on our disgust with this tactic. She picked up on this very quickly, and rapidly determined that political parties who engage in attack ads are not her style.
A few days ago she began doing political belief surveys online. We had to help a bit with the questions as these surveys are aimed at adults, but she was intrigued and did at least two of them to try to determine her own political stance. As suspected she leans to the political left, much like her mother.
Over the last couple of days she began asking a lot of questions about Jack Layton. Did I like him? Did I think he was sincere? What did I think of the NDP, anyhow? I answered as honestly as a politically jaded adult can - that out of all the leaders I liked Layton the most as he seems the most genuine, but that the NDP are unlikely to ever form the Canadian government. I told her, though, that people vote for who they do for different reasons. Sometimes they vote for the local candidate. Sometimes they vote for the party they like. Sometimes they vote for the leader they wish to see in power. And sometimes they vote for anyone but a candidate they cannot stand.
Last week they held a mock election in her school. The kids in the higher grades were asked to vote for our local candidates. She came home the night before in a quandary - which of the four to pick? PC? Liberal? NDP? Green?!? That's when I told her there was another option. I asked if her teacher had told her that she could spoil her ballot. She looked at me with suspicion. I told her that you can, in fact, place an enormous black X across your entire ballot if you do not think any candidate is suitable. You can write in another name. Or, you could write in "Rhino". Rhino? She was baffled, and that's when I told her about the Rhino Party.
For those with long memories the Rhinos were a joke party, but not really a joke. They were a collective of eclectic individuals who ran in various elections and always with an entertaining platform. When the founder of the party was asked in 1963 what his candidates would do if elected he said "The same as yours - nothing". I told her about the time the Rhinos ran a dog in one riding (as I recall he signed his candidacy papers with a paw print). She immediately began reading about the Rhinos. She joined the Rhino Facebook page, and declared herself a Rhino. It appealed to her sense of whimsy and sense of humour - and frankly even at age 11 she is a cynic and the Rhinos appealed to that, too.
The morning of the school mock election she continued to experience confusion - should she vote NDP or should she write in Rhino? I told her that voting is all about going with what feels right and with what your heart and head say is the right choice for you, and that there is no wrong or right answer - just what's right for you, and that that is the beauty of democracy.
She came home after school grinning from ear to ear. How did she vote? Well, I know your vote is normally a private matter, but she chose to share it with me and now I share it with you, dear friends. That bold little mind and brave little heart wrote "Rhino" on her ballot and stuffed it into the box. She knows it won't be counted, and that she may be asked to explain (especially since I suspect some of the younger teachers may not even be familiar with the Rhinos). She was a proud participant of democracy, however, and voted in the way her conscience told her to. She also asked exactly how old you need to be to run in an election, and if I thought she would make a good Rhino candidate. Dear friends, it appears I am raising not a PC nor a Liberal nor an NDP. I am raising a Rhino. I couldn't be any prouder.
Posted by Theresa at 10:17 AM