We recently moved house and it wasn’t long before Steve and I each got letters from the Electoral Commission reminding us which electorate we were living in and asking us to sign and send back our changed details.
And then there was a third letter from the Electoral Commission – for Claudia.
I don’t think I had ever considered Claudia and voting. Claudia voting! Imagine!
They knew she was now 18 and noted she hadn’t enrolled. I was a bit befuddled about what it all might mean so I gave them a ring.
Turns out Claudia is of course entitled to vote. She’s alive and of age and while its not compulsory to vote (unless Gareth Morgan has his way) they said she would be well advised to partake in our democracy, engage in the issues and have her say. I couldn’t agree more.
Some people consider politics a bit of a dirty word. They think that politics, like religion, is not a fit topic for polite conversation.
Our family doesn’t think that way. We enjoy loud impassioned dinners where everyone’s shouting and either indignant or provocative and the rules about who’s holding the spoon are pointless as the spoon’s been flung at the wall.
In our family it’s a bit rude not to join in and having no opinion is worse than having a differing one.
But in all the banter over all the chicken casseroles none of us have ever stopped to ask Claudia what she thinks. Even as we opine about her, about her situation and what religion and politics make of people like her, we’ve never asked how she feels about it all.
We know that, unlike her parents, she likes churches because of the singing (especially Christmas carols)
Would she hold political views different from ours? How should she vote?
Disability issues are only really high on the political radar of people who are affected by them.
It wasn’t an area of politics I took much notice of until Claudia came along. People told us we’d have to become outspoken advocates for her but I really didn’t foresee how much.
Steve has always been very politically astute and picked up the baton for our family.
Income splitting would be a reasonable option to make life a little more fair for families like ours.
In the early days Michael Cullen wrote a long considered reply to Steve about it, but ultimately declined to adopt it as policy.
In 2007 Peter Dunne told us income splitting was a priority for him but despite still being in Parliament all these years later, he has done nothing.
The late Allan Peachey met us and we had an excellent conversation around special education. At least he gave us the time.
Bill English responded to Steve’s e-mail in a way that proved he’d read it, and committed to phrasing policy better in future.
Kathryn Rich passed the buck and Anne Tolley sent the ubiquitous “thank you for your e mail, I have noted your concerns” insult.
Steve often says we have a heightened bullshit detector and he certainly sees straight through policy statements that are not in our children’s best interests. Good on him for paying attention.
In the meantime in the low-brow world of talkback, I was being hung up on by Michael Laws for defending Claudia’s right to be in an ordinary classroom with her peers. Sigh.
But that was years ago before we basically gave up.
I was once at a party that was being held on election night. I was listening to some results coming through and another party-goer was astonished at my interest. “I don’t care who gets in” she said airily, “ as long as it’s not that lesbian Helen Clark”. Another Sigh.
I have thought of this exchange often over the years. Her political apathy came from a position of luxury.
We are in a political era now where greed and self-serving are de rigueur.
Thanks to people like Paul Henry and the insufferable Mike Hosking, the populace are encouraged to believe that the people at the top of the chain are there because they work harder or somehow deserve it . They’re just better. As they feather their own nests we applaud them blindly from the sidelines accepting the promise there will be a trickle down.
This lack of nuance in thinking absolves people from being very interested in social justice. They forget democracy is not majority rules and that people whose voices are rarely heard will be overlooked. In the same way that we never previously bothered to ask Clauds what she thinks.
So I think we should hark back to a more representative time. A kinder, fairer, more humane time.
If people don’t think they are going to be affected one way or the other after an election, then maybe they should give their vote to somebody who is. Someone like Claudia. Somebody who does not have a strong voice of self-advocacy, someone who is never going to be “elite” regardless of how many hours she puts in or how “clever” her decisions. Now I think of it, she deserves two votes!
So with Claudia in mind, we’ll be paying close attention this election year, and will certainly make her vote count. And ours. I hope you do too.