In the 1960's I was transformed into an "activist" by the "good vibrations" of the time. I grew my hair long, protested the war in Vietnam, recycled my recyclables and discussed the evils of the trilateral commission with my university comrades.
In my middle years I ran unsuccessfully for the NDP, evangelized for the need to move to a sustainable energy regime (solar and wind), and took pride in blue-helmeted Canadian troops as the "kept the peace" in many troubled parts of the world.
During the 1980's I watched in horror as the public became enthralled with the simplistic jingoism of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher as they destroyed environmental and financial regulations, attacked organized labour, and escalated military adventurism against such pressing threats as the democratically elected governments of Nicaragua and Granada.
In the 1990's I gave up.
Now, as my own children reach voting age I am both fearful and hopeful. I see in them a well-informed, skeptical, and distrustful generation that has the power to bring about big changes but has chosen not to participate in Canadian democracy in large numbers. The 37% turnout among 18-24 year olds in the 2008 election is as understandable as it is unproductive.
Today's youth need to acknowledge that, whether they vote or not, there will be a government elected that will tax them and that will use those revenues for whatever purposes the government chooses; for completely unnecessary fighter jets or for affordable housing; for building monsterous new jails or for programs that address the poverty and disenfranchisement that so often lead people to commit crimes; to pursue a foreign policy of peacekeeping or to continually back ineffective U.S. military interventions.
I clearly have a political bias - one that I believe is grounded in a objective analysis of public policy issues. But that is not really important.
What is important - what is critically important - is that the youth of our country exercise the democratic right that they have to choose a government .
Please go out and vote. Show my generation, too often locked into voting patterns entrenched by our grandparents, that you are willing to make your mark, literally, on the ballots being cast today.
The future is in your hands.