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Guest Blogger: On Being Canadian Today (Impotence)

This Magazine Staff

[Editor’s Note: from time to time we’ll feature guest bloggers on important issues; In honour of today’s big electoral hurrah in the U.S., a reflection on Canadians’ feelings of helplessness as the American presidential race comes down to its final hours.]
s_barmak.jpgBY SARAH BARMAK
A couple of weeks ago a friend from Texas who is living and working in Toronto asked me to print out a form he needed to cast his absentee ballot. I may have slightly overreacted.
Outwardly, I simply smiled and asked for the file; inwardly, my heart swelled with unbridled enthusiasm. I rose to the task of switching on my printer and clicking “Print” as if it was the most meaningful act I had done, or could do, for the human race.


Let me explain. I’m a Canadian. That means I’m both a) fascinated by the U.S. presidential race, the outcome of which has serious consequences for both Canada and the rest of the world, and b) utterly powerless to influence it in any way. I’m more impotent than a voter casting a ballot in bluest Manhattan: I can’t
vote at all.
Worse, as someone who checks political blogs and election polls daily (I obsessively refresh meticulous pollster Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com as well as Steve Benen’s “Political Animal” blog) I’m probably more informed about this particular election than most U.S. voters. Not that it matters. The only thing it has an effect on is how my own productivity has fallen (steeply) and how fed up my friends and family are with getting links to Sarah Palin-related articles and YouTube videos (very).
Some Canadians have been doing what they can to help Barack Obama, the Democratic senator who is the world’s choice for U.S. president, by phoning U.S. and dual citizens living in Canada and directing them to request their absentee ballot. Others have even travelled to the states to canvass door-to-door. Others outside the U.S. are dealing with their feelings of impotence in slightly more creative ways. Others are simply thinking positive thoughts, “The Secret” style. Good luck to them.
Me, I’ll be spending this evening with a pint, CNN’s holographic, person-like shouting heads, and a laptop, checking election data, ready to cheer or cry as necessary.
My Texan friend’s form, by the way, failed to print. Apparently the PDF was corrupt. Perhaps I wasn’t thinking positive.
Sarah Barmak is a freelance writer living in Toronto.

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