Wednesday, May 4, 2011

To the New Young NDP MPs: Please be Awesome

Dear young new members of the NDP's Québec caucus,

Please be awesome.

In the eyes of Canada's mass media, you represent the weak point in Jack Layton's armour. With their eyes already focusing on 2015, the 'establishment' in Canada's traditional élites recognise that they must humiliate the NDP, as quickly as possible, as efficiently as possible. They will do this by targeting you.

They will try to make you look like fools, green neophytes who chanced into your jobs and are hopelessly unfit to serve. Please take every given opportunity to wipe that smirk off of their faces by exceeding their expectations.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau, you are first in line. That single photograph that seems to exist of you is already a ubiquitous visual representation of Québec's folly. It has been plastered everywhere not only to make you yourself and the NDP look bad but the people of Québec and of Berthier-Maskinongé in particular. The media has a vested interest in embarrassing all of you, and that gives you common interest with your constituents. You are a single mother who makes ends meet by working at a bar, and in its arrogance, the mass media implies that this disqualifies you from serious consideration as a legitimate candidate.

Shove this arrogance in their faces, Ruth Ellen. By not being a middle-aged male lawyer, you represent 'one of us' in ways the élites can never understand. Your local constituents will be hostile for your linguistic abilities and your lack of association with the riding, and to be frank, they ought to. You'll have to do everything you can to overcome those weaknesses, but never forget this: you may be distant from your constituents, deep in the heart of Ottawa, but philosophically you are distant from Ottawa, too. You are an outsider, and in an election where millions of Canadians voted to shatter the inbred cronyism of the status quo, you are precisely the outsider we ought to be proud to have elected.

Make us proud. Make the people of Berthier-Maskinongé elect you in 2015 based on who you are, not merely on your party leader. The powers-that-be want you to be powerless, because they want women like you, single and working-class, to be powerless. Nothing frightens them more than the idea of politically active young working class people. Yet you have sought power despite that, and the people have given you power despite that. Use it on behalf of millions of Canadians just like you.

With the Las Vegas fiasco, it's started badly, and people will want you to be a sacrificial lamb. Defy their expectations. Stay away from Ottawa, a city you know too well, and spend as much time as possible in your riding. Be a grassroots ambassador for the underprivileged in this country, the people who know the importance of a holiday because it's come after a year of hard work. Don't give them the satisfaction of 'proving' that working single moms have no place in politics.

Pierre-Luc Dusseault, you are next in line. You represent everything that was revolutionary about the 2011 election. This campaign started out with smug satisfaction as the media complained about so-called youth apathy while simultaneously revelling in it. Somewhere along the way, just as this election served to defy everyone's expectations on a million other topics, young Canadians rejected the idea that they were apathetic, that the were not motivated, that they saw politics as having nothing to do with you. Vote mobs, campus voting booths, social media... all of these things were stories in and of themselves, yet you, Pierre-Luc, are a bigger story than any of them.

There is nothing funny or ridiculous about your candidacy: it was incredible and something Canadians as a whole should be proud of. The media wants to treat you as a joke because secretly they are terrified of you: you represent a generation that refuses to be taken for granted. And represent them you do, Pierre-Luc. You go to Ottawa on behalf not only of the people of Sherbrooke but of the youth of this country as a whole, who have always been shut out of the corridors of power by middle-aged men who have long overgrown the idealism and determination of youth. They mock young candidates because they fear them, and until this week, the voters have allowed themselves to agree.

You have a hard road ahead of you, and I hope you are up to it. People will want you to fail, so succeed. Exceed expectations. Spend these four years as Ottawa's voice of the youth, as the representative of students nationwide. Be a hero to your generation, and in time you will be a hero to all of us. Build tirelessly on the chance you've been given, and you'll turn 'student MP' from an arrogantly-delivered epithet to the badge you can proudly wear even as your age falls in line with other MPs in Ottawa. Even when you're 60, you'll still be 'that politically-motivated 19-year-old', or more excitingly perhaps you'll be 'that groundbreaking first of many politically-motivated 19-year-olds'.

To the rest of you: don't be daunted. Millions of Canadians, people just like you, have voted for radical change. None of us know who most of you are, and there's a lot of trepidation out there, but prove us all wrong and destroy the mass media who will try to destroy you. Have the last laugh. You are young, you are Québécois and you are social democrats: the élites want to paint you as fools, and in so doing they want to paint the young, the people of Québec, and social democrats as fools. They want nothing more than for you to fail to prove that people like you made a mistake in trusting you, in believing in political change, in getting involved in politics.

Make no mistake: their goal is not to get people like you to vote for 'the other' parties; it's to get them not to vote at all. You represent a threat because you are from the very groups they want to keep down: the young, the progressive, the French-Canadian. The outsiders, the people who want to be PMs out of a belief in the power of government to change society for the better, as opposed to insider cronies out to milk the system for their own personal gain. It's not a bad thing that you're new to the political scene; it is, in fact, the very thing that may come to be your greatest advantages.

You have the potential to be the very embodiment of real progressive change to the Ottawa status quo that Canadians got so tantalisingly close to realising this week. The rest of this country, the people with a vested interest in preserving that status quo, are keenly aware of that, and will try their hardest to destroy you; be indestructible. They will want you to fail; succeed. They will want you to be laughingstocks; be inspirations. They will want you to be mediocre; be awesome instead.

They will try to make sure that your constituents regret voting for you. Instead, believe that with time, with effort and with work, Canadians will see your electoral victories as the best thing ever to happen to our country.

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