No, I haven’t suddenly gotten preachy about exercise. You can count on me to never get preachy about exercise. I know as well as anyone that it’s not possible for everyone to go for a run; my knees would collapse from under me. But when I started to struggle with my physical disability, I realized that I didn’t need to be able to walk to be able to help people or to be able to care about things. And I found ways to not only be helpful, but to excel and to find self-confidence in my capacity to be helpful.
And recently I’ve been thinking about taking it one step further and running for elected office.
There are a million reasons not to, not least of all because I’m perfectly happy with the guy who currently holds the office for which I’m considering running. I am open about my mood disorders, I’m young, I don’t have children or a mortgage that would give me a personal stake in a lot of pressing issues. And it feels really pompous to assert that people should Vote For Me. Even writing this blog, I often wonder who I think I am.
But then I started to meditate on democracy, and when it works best. What does it mean to run for office? I think politics too often assumes an “us v them” mentality, when democracy is supposed to be about conversation and choice. When I’m sitting at dinner, I don’t withhold my opinion just because I trust others at the table to adequately represent that opinion. Likewise, just because I’m putting myself forward as a candidate, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t trust the other candidates to represent me or that I don’t respect their opinions. Democracy, like any conversation, is better when there is more participation.
Running for office is not the only way to participate in that conversation, and it’s certainly not for everyone. But I want you to consider your reasons for not running. Mine included feeling ashamed about my mental health and feeling like I wouldn’t have anything to contribute. But then I started writing this blog, and I realized that I do have a perspective that’s worth sharing. And then I realized that my personal and professional accomplishments are not diminished by the fact that I was simultaneously managing my mental health. I remembered what I learned as a 12 year old with a cane: I might not be able to do everything that everyone else does, but I am really good at caring a lot and trying hard to be helpful. And I can’t think of a better qualification for a candidate for public office.
I love that Toronto has so much diversity in its candidates for municipal office, but the same isn’t true at all levels of government. And I’m tired of politicians so often just being guys with an unwarranted excess of self-confidence. I want candidates who are willing to show, even when the odds of “winning” are against them. I want to see people honestly and respectfully voicing their positions on issues, despite that their strengths aren’t glad-handing or public speaking. I want more choice and better conversations in politics.
I want you to run.
Posted in: Progress