Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The holidays

Survivors of Suicide met in Hamilton on International Surivivors of Suicide day, November 21st. The video panel presentation from the American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide (AFPS) was a healthy, yet emotional, discussion of what its like to be put on this path by the hand of another.

Yet, gathering is good for the soul. I felt privileged to meet others who are in the same state of shock and healing as I am. The chatter after the panel was helpful and healing. I was reminded that Senator Harry Reid was the one who started this special day of remembrance in 1999 after having survived his own father's suicide. Hopefully, the American health care initiative currently being debated in the American Senate will include increased mental health care for those in need.

The holiday period from Thanksgiving through to the New Year is a time of family gatherings and a stall in the healing as wounds are ripped open again by the empty chairs in each family experiencing suicide recently. Be gentle with yourselves is the message for this season.

As for the AFPS, I can say it's one of the best not-for-profits that I've come across. The materials I received from this organization have been truly helpful in finding the path to a healthy view of suicide. It helps to set aside the idea of blame. The outcome could not have been prevented in Caleb's case, it was truly only a matter of time.

It helps to seek out the 3 H's: Hugs, Heroes who will hush up and listen to stories and friends who will Hang Out with us. The AFPS will hold a fundraising walk all across North America next June and I fully expect to ask for your support of my participation in the "Out of the Darkness" walk in June 2010. You've been warned!

Preparing to face the holidays has been like finding myself with my feet stuck in concrete again. I've been told that this effect lessens with years of experience. I have to rely on the expertise of those who have gone before me. And they are legion - in the US alone, suicide is the 4th leading cause of death and someone chooses this path every 16 minutes leaving behind survivors. I'm still looking for the Canadian numbers but, in general, ours are about 10% - our population in ratio to the American numbers.

Today I received a very special gift: a digital photo of Caleb in which he is obviously happy. One thing I've learned is that nearly no one wants to hear about Caleb and yet I still want to talk about him and what a wonderful man he was - despite the end he chose. Yes, I'm sad as we head into Christmas but I'm thrilled with this one gift. Someone else shares what I feel about a wonderful human who we must carry on without. Someone else captured Caleb in a moment of joy!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Humboldt County: Garbage or Gold?

Is it time to get involved?

Poll: Do you believe Humboldt County should allow the proposed Jungo Road Landfill?

The local group have an internet poll that you can participate in. Two years ago, Humboldt County changed its ordinances without any public consultation to allow garbage from outside its area to be dumped at Jungo. Now a company called Recology has been issued a permit to create a "560-acre regional landfill 25 miles west of Winnemucca. This proposed landfill is to receive 8 million pounds of garbage per day, five days per week, with a proposed lifetime of 95 years, from the state of California."

Maybe it's time burners became involved. A large percentage of burners are from California. Isn't it time we took our LNT policy home with us?

In other Jungo news, Aultra Gold Inc. discovered gold at Jungo in 2006. The Jungo property lies between the historic Sleeper and Hycroft mines in Humboldt County, Nevada. The Hycroft mine has recently gone back into production resulting in repairs to the Jungo Road between Winnemucca and Jungo.

So what's it going to be: Garbage or Gold?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Climate Change - Blog Action Day 2009

It's long past the time for action on Climate Change so I decided to focus on a group that is doing something real to make a difference. Black Rock Solar developed from the Green Man theme at Burning Man 2007. Tom Price then the Green Man manager charged with greening the burn took up the challenge and has now formed a not-for-profit to:

take on climate change, and speed the adoption of renewable energy, by building low or no cost solar power in unlikely places, and teaching community members how they can do the same. Because if we’re going to solve the climate crisis, everyone has to be part of the solution. They can then use all the money they save to support their communities how they best see fit.

To date, Black Rock Solar has been involved with installing solar panels at schools, universities and churches with financing provided by NV Energy, in some cases. For example at Lovelock Nevada's school, Black Rock Solar has installed two arrays of panels which will save the amount of one teacher's salary over the course of the lifetime of the array. This initiative illustrates the intent of Black Rock Solar to put renewable energy to work so that other not-for-profits can focus their resources on their mission. Next in line to receive a solar panel array is the Northern Nevada Food Bank. Several other projects have also been completed in the communities of Gerlach and Nixon. And more work is underway in California, Texas and Michigan.

Not one to stand on past laurels, Price is plowing ahead to make solar affordable for homeowners in Nevada. He and Black Rock Solar were proponents of Assembly Bill 186, enacted on October 1, 2009, which changes a long standing Nevada law to allow homeowners to contract with a renewable energy business to use creative financing and install products at little or no cost up front. Not only will this allow homeowners who couldn't realistically afford to update with renewable energy to move forward but it is also a boost to the solar power industry in Nevada.

As one of the Culture Labs of Black Rock City, Black Rock Solar is taking the culture of Burning Man out to the real world to deal with Climate Change by using minimal resources, minimal staff, some volunteers and minimal administrative expenses to deliver real change to communities in Nevada, California, Texas and Michigan.

Donations for this exceptional project are tax-deductible for US contributors and real resources will help push this project ahead. Donate here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Woodstock - no not that one, the other one

Writing for the next week from Woodstock New York while attending the Tenth Annual Woodstock Film Festival.

Some of my reviews and reflections will be available on Huffington Post, whose senior editor Stewart Nusbaumer has assisted me with credentialling, etc. I remain hopeful that a Canadian publication will be interested in purchasing some of these interviews and articles. Wow, has journalism ever changed!!!

Stewart and Caleb met in Iraq and Afghanistan and shared many of the same war time journalism experiences. This has been our first opportunity to get together as Stewart was in Afghanistan when Caleb died. We're working on the Film Festival but also making time to share our Caleb stories. Stewart's property at Arkville is hidden away in the Catskills - only 2 and half hours from the George Washington bridge!

Caleb would have loved it here. The property reminds me of his home turf at Buchanan and even has a separate studio building similar to his father's. With the fall leaves changing colour, Caleb would have loved it here so I'm making the best of the situation and enjoying the experience here too. Stewart has many stories to share and much encouragement for younger journalists. Being here is like being bathed in the warm glow of a mentor. Now I understand why Caleb spoke so highly of Stewart.

My business card will henceforth say "Fiercely Independent Journalist".

Does ferocity scare editors or publishers? Who knows but it is now time for me to find out?

And here's the press photo...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Moving on - Playa memorials for Caleb Schaber

How to remember Caleb Schaber this year at the burn? Playa time being what it is, pick the one you can fit in to your schedule or that helps you to say goodbye:

• Bring a “found item” like a piece of wood that he might have painted on to add to the on-playa Outsider Art sculpture that we are creating. If you have one of Caleb’s paintings, photocopy and bring that to put on the sculpture. Bring that email that haunts you still. Heck, Caleb once created a piece of art from a pizza box! There will be basic tools to assist and some paints to apply your note – bring burnables only please. It is your sculpture of your memories of Caleb and we will burn it after the memorial on Thursday evening. Check at the ARTERY for placement location.

• Make an origami crane with the assistance of the crew at Rue Morgue (9:00 plaza) early in the week to place either on the sculpture or in the coffin that Rue Morgue puts in the Temple each year. Write your goodbye to Caleb on the crane. This is a drop-in anytime activity.

• Meet on Monday evening at 6PM at the Black Rock Beacon on Evolution Rd @ 5:30, to help us swarm the city's porta potties. We have created a Mental Health survivors Guide to the Playa and printed 500 on sticky labels for the porta potties. In Caleb's memory, let's help those who are suffering to have a safe burn!

• Eat breakfast on Wednesday morning at 8AM and until the food runs out at Toon Town Disco. We’re hosting the Breakfast of Mental Health Champions. We are going to be sooooo politically incorrect as to knock mental health stigma out of our society’s lexicon on Caleb’s behalf. There will be good food to fortify us, heck, Rhino is even bringing GRITS! I’m crazy; you’re crazy too, come dance with me at the disco!

• Memorial at Rue Morgue, 9:00 plaza at 6PM on Thursday followed by the burning of the sculpture once the sun sets. Bring your own “shooter” glass, tequila might be involved. Heck, bring some tequila so there's lots.

• Visit the Temple and leave your memories there. A poster has been created with some photos of Caleb. His name is on the Memorial Burner Plaque. One page in the book of memories in the center of the Temple is for Caleb – read about his life. Add your notes nearby.

• Attend Temple Burn this year, watch the coffin full of cranes enter the Temple and remember that crazy email Caleb sent you and let it all go as the Temple goes up in flames.

• If none of these fit your schedule or your personal connection to Caleb, crack open a PBR and drink to his memory. Don’t be surprised if there’s one less PBR in your cooler – his spirit will be there all around us hopping from camp to camp looking for a brew and deep, spirited conversation. When he shows up at your camp, love him or curse him for leaving us all behind to carry on without his crazy, wild, genius.

Peace be with you, Caleb

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

BURNcast.TV Presents: In Loving Memory

Burncast Memorial Video

DaBomb of Burncast TV has created a very moving tribute to all the Burners and significant friends who have passed away this year. The music is perfect for this expert arrangement of photos including Caleb. Thanks DaBomb for your very moving project.

BURNcast.TV: BURNcast.TV Presents: In Loving Memory

A memorial service for Caleb Schaber will be held at this year's burn at Rue Morgue in the 9:00 Plaza on Thursday evening starting at 6PM. Origami cranes can be made at Rue Morgue in advance of this service for placement in the memorial coffin to be burned in the Temple on Sunday evening.

My camp will be with the Black Rock Beacon located on Revolution Rd. @ 5:30. I look forward to meeting Caleb's friends at this burn so that we can celebrate his exciting and interesting life together.

We are permitted to grieve
Because we have been
Privileged to love.
To escape grief at the cost of
Never having loved
Is too dear a price to pay

In loving memory of Caleb Schaber

Friday, May 15, 2009

a tribute slideshow

Just made my first upload to YouTube. I'm sure I need to learn something because the quality is not as high as when I view it on my own laptop. Oh well, it was a creative endeavour that was healing.

Caleb's Memorial Monolith Burn

Oh and I really didn't like that YouTube stripped the audio and forced me to replace it with a classical piece. The original soundtrack I made included some of Caleb's favourite tunes and I even bought them but you can't put those on YouTube.

Caleb and I had an intense interest in news and would send each other links constantly. Now every time I see something that I think he'd like, I have to stop myself from sending it.

I'm resigned to having to deal with his death, I'm just now coming to realize that it's all real so I guess I'm not in shock anymore. Amazing the value of being in shock!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

postponing birthday

Can you imagine having a birthday in the middle of this?

On April 17th, I witnessed the shooting suicide of one of my best friends in the world, a man I loved. I am so friggin' mad that I couldn't stop him. I tried everything. But I'm even madder that no one else tried to help, even when asked.

Today, FB is sending me happy, happy greetings and all I can do is cry. I have crawled into my pajamas and been here for almost a week. The idea of happy just doesn't register. I don't blame these happy greeters, it's what we do on FB. But doesn't that say something about it's complete lack of relevance to the lives of real live friends?

When are we going to take the lack of mental health care in our world seriously? My friend Caleb deserved better from society and he didn't get it and I couldn't help. My rage at the system knows no bounds today. Depression is not contagious, all we need to do is reach out an empathetic hand as a society and provide the professional services requested and needed. As far as I'm concerned we're all responsible when someone chooses suicide because they couldn't get the help they needed when they asked for it. Every friggin' person on this continent is in some way responsible for the death of Caleb Schaber - he asked for help and we didn't give it to him.

Some people in officialdom even made his life worse. When I'm finished with the Department of Social Services in the City of Seattle, they will not know what hit them. Judging by the emails recently, they are starting to get that message except Mayor Greg Nickels who can keep his jargon and patronizing crap. Too bad that Caleb didn't defeat him in that election back in 2001. As for PayPal, in cahoots with RBC and TD Canada Trust, those bastards will never hear the end of my rage. When I feel better I will hire a lawyer to go after their asses on Caleb's behalf.

And then there's the whole PTSD thing from war. We teach children to get along in the school yard. No lying, no biting, no snatching of toys, etc. Then we grow up and vote for imperialistic shits (owned in whole or in part by military suppliers and world finance) who lead entire nations to war on a pack of lies using torture and stealing resources from weaker nations. Time for women to take a part on the big stage and get the human race on the path to peace.

So, I'm officially postponing my birthday. Today, I'm having a pity party at my house and no one is invited.

Instead of greetings to me, please send an email or phone call to someone you know who needs it or might need it. Talk to someone in your own circle who is having a tough time. Your phone call, your email could be the one thing that gets that person through today.

Re-schedule date for the celebratory birthday is TBA, later. Maybe next year will be easier.

PS. to those who really know me, you know I specifically asked for this week alone in my pjs and I am getting the professional help I need. Next week I will try to get out. Today, I'm feeling the rage and letting it go.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Take back the Day

In North America, Mother's Day was originally a day marked by women's peace organizations. Mothers whose sons had fought or died on both sides of the American Civil War would meet to patch the country back together again. Mother's Day Work Clubs assisted the encampments during the war to fight typhoid outbreaks. After the war, these groups continued as Mother's Friendship Clubs to help mend the families broken apart by the war.

The role of mothers in our public discourse has taken on the "Forgotten Woman" syndrome and we need a "Susan Boyle moment" to reclaim our place in society. We have voices that need to be heard on the national, provincial and local stages.

Rather than or in addition to flowers, chocolates or dinner out, why not take back this day to make our society more livable for our families. Let's talk about peace, let's talk about the things that need fixing in our societies. It's the one day when we ARE listened to and now is the time to make a difference. Let's de-commodify Mother's Day and make it about our role in society and making a difference in our families and our communities.

Peace would be much more comforting than a box of chocolates.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

face-to-face with PTSD

On April 16th, I flew to Reno and was met at the airport by one of the best friends I've ever had, Caleb Schaber. I've known Caleb since last year's Burning Man event in August. We volunteered together on a team to help create the best community newspaper in the world, the Black Rock BeACON.

Caleb and I clicked almost immediately. I helped him with a difficult article he was working on and we got to talking long into the desert nights. Not that Caleb needed much help with writing but he was having a hard time finding the focus and the lead he wanted.

Most people who know me and everyone who knows Caleb would say (and have said) we were the most unlikely pair on the face of the earth to hook up. Yet, we did and it was a source of unbridled joy and unmitigated chaos, often both at the same time. During our first all night conversation in the desert, Caleb shared about his experiences as a war time journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last four years. As the night wore on, he talked about the lasting effects on him, personally.

Caleb was diagnosed with PTSD in June 2008 and received a minimal amount of counselling and a prescription for Lexapro. Because he had been a freelance journalist, he had no benefits and in the United States that is like a death sentence. Due to his symptoms, Caleb didn't have a conventional job - he would go for days without being able to sleep at all due to horrifying nightmares. Then he'd sleep for a whole day at a time. He survived by minimizing his expenses, living in a trailer in Gerlach, Nevada until it was too cold, then he planned to couch-surf with friends across the continent. Caleb was also an exceptional artist who created an online blog for his writing and paintings. He had a loyal audience earned over many years who often sent him contributions.

The contributions were just enough to keep him alive, seeking the truth and challenging power when necessary. Unfortunately, he often didn't have enough money for his medication. He would take it for 10 days then skip a week and then get another 10 day supply (the minimum dispensary amount at Walgreen's). With no further counselling available and not enough resources to stay on the medicine long enough to heal, Caleb's symptoms worsened.

I started buying his art on September 19th when he first put up a sale on his blog. I really didn't know his financial situation between August and September even though we had daily email or chat contact. He was very independent and stubborn. I made it my business after that to try to give what I could. Of course, he insisted on sending me artwork in return.

Caleb's gift to me was the sharing of his sparkling intellect and a sincere encouragement to leave a long-time abusive relationship. He inspired me and bolstered my courage to make long overdue changes. Caleb was engaged in life in astonishing ways. Despite the PTSD, Caleb lived life with a high level of activity, curiousity and ingenuity combined with a playful spirit.

As the weather turned fiercely cold in Gerlach, Caleb caught a really bad cold and was quite sick. He had a project he wanted to undertake to clear his record for a ridiculous event in his past which resulted in a criminal record and prevented him from having a passport to travel to Canada. This happened in Seattle and he needed to get there for the beginning of December to meet his lawyer and go to court for the expungement process.

His infamous Samurai was not in a state of repair to make it to Seattle without new tires at the very least. I sent the money for a set of tires and agreed to meet him in Seattle at the first of December. That's when I met PTSD face-to-face.

We met a couple burner friends, also from the BeACON, for lunch in Pike Place Market. Caleb was antsy throughout the meal and got up and went for a walk twice. After we parted ways with our friends, Caleb and I headed back to the hotel in the Samurai. Caleb turned around very suddenly and headed back to the market to get some cardamon at the Asian spice store.

When we left the store to return to the Samurai, Caleb stood stalk still in the middle of the road and couldn't be moved. He didn't respond until I cupped my hands under his chin. He said everyone had guns and he didn't, where was his gun? It took me twenty minutes to get him to a small green space about 20 yards away. We sat with our backs to the hedgerow looking out at the harbour for three hours before he could finally stand up and leave. The crisis had passed although I did have to learn how to drive the Samurai quite suddenly. A book should be written about that vehicle - suffice to say, it was heavily modified and duct tape plays more than one novel role.

For the next several months, Caleb experienced more and more frequent episodes like this. The following week I returned to Canada to try to prepare for Christmas. Caleb sat outside in the pouring rain for 30 hours hiding in the bushes from imaginary enemies. He was staying with another burner friend for the month of December and together Michael and I tried to keep Caleb fed, watered and safe. On one occasion, by telephone I talked him off the Aurora Bridge and into a nearby Chinese restaurant. The Aurora Bridge was a real threat as Caleb had jumped off it a few years ago and broke his back. One phone call was 12 hours long to talk him back to safety.

I wasn't always there since I had a life here to try to untangle. We did spend several weeks together in four different trips I made to the Seattle area for a couple weeks at a time. And we had daily contact by phone, email and chat.

On Boxing Day, Caleb and Michael got into a playful wrestling match that turned serious after the PTSD took over. Neighbours called the police and Caleb was arrested and jailed for 24 hours. With a no-contact order in place after his release, Caleb was suddenly homeless and very anxious about how this would affect his efforts to clear the old record and get a passport. The shock of jail seemed to open Caleb's independent mind and heart to accepting help. We got a prescription for a less expensive generic version of the drug and got a 30 day supply at a time, rented a hotel room by the week and hired a lawyer. I started looking for a housing situation online and found an old miner's house we could rent in Roslyn, away from the noisy, crowded city starting on January 27th.

In the meantime, Caleb needed to get away from the city and its triggers so we decided he should take the train to Washington DC to go to the Obama inauguration. This would keep him busy, writing and focussed for a couple weeks. On the way home, he stopped for a day to visit his father near South Bend for his 70th birthday. I would have gone to the inauguration too but I had a new granddaughter expected that week. While he was away from Seattle, a major repair on the engine of the Samurai was done.

We met in Seattle on January 27th, picked up the Samurai and drove to Roslyn on the 28th. Back to Seattle for a disappointing court appearance on February 2nd. Then returned for a couple of weeks to Roslyn. On the way back, the rear drive shaft fell off on I 90 and we limped into Roslyn on front wheel drive by disabling the rear wheel drive.

The premise of the house rental for a couple of months was to write the book from his interview notes from the war. This was his idea of a way out of abject poverty but the material was difficult. Caleb took to drinking heavily to shut out the stories. Then he took to watching movies non-stop. He couldn't write and the best we could do was a bunch of needed repair jobs on the Samurai. Caleb couldn't focus on anything for more than a few minutes at a time which made for a chaotic lifestyle. Some parts of every day were blissful joy but often he was tense and erratic in mood.

I returned to Canada on February 14th then back to Seattle on February 27th. I took the airport shuttle to nearby Cle Elum and hitched a ride to Roslyn. Caleb was to meet me but he had fallen asleep after a grueling few days of no sleep. On March 2nd we had a great celebration with a complete dismissal of the charges in court. Things started to improve considerably and for a couple weeks, everything was great. On the day before I was to return to Canada, Caleb was suddenly very moody. He insisted on vacating the house and driving me into Seattle early and he headed off to his next couch surfing/house sitting engagement. I stayed in Seattle that night and flew out the next morning.

Our next idea was to get Caleb back to Gerlach for the beginning of April and to negotiate the lease of the train station there to use as an art gallery/studio. Caleb stalled on leaving the Seattle area for days on end. He hid under a bridge again and I ended up calling the police to coax him away.

I had negotiated with railways before so I was resolved to get Caleb some hope for his dream of the future and that's why I went to Reno on April 16th.

Caleb picked me up at the Reno airport and we had a great day together ending at Gerlach at a friend's birthday party in Bev's Miners Bar. When we left the bar at about midnight, Caleb drove through the back streets to tell me about his town and where friends lived and many stories.

The meeting with the Union Pacific had been set for Friday morning but I hadn't checked email all day so when we arrived at his trailer, we both pulled out our laptops to check email on the hood of the Samurai. As it turned out the meeting was postponed to the following week. I was ecstatic due to a need for a good night's sleep after travelling all day. Caleb suddenly became very restless and started pacing outside. I asked him to show me the trailer and I would make up the bed since no one had been there for four months. We went inside and he lit candles and put music on while showing me the trailer. Caleb said he needed to think so he went outside to pace while I got the bedding ready. I changed to pajamas due to the cool desert night and waited for him to come back. I couldn't let myself sleep because of the candles.

Caleb walked back into the trailer and I sat up to ask him to please blow out the candles if he was going to stay up. He looked right through me as if I wasn't even there. His face was blank, his eyes staring straight ahead. I looked at him and in his left hand were two shotgun shells. I asked him why he had the shells and received no response. As I moved from the bed toward him, he set one shell on the kitchen counter, grabbed the shotgun with his other hand, loaded it, put it under his chin and pulled the trigger.

The last two weeks have been a flurry of memorials in San Francisco, Reno, Gerlach and Seattle. Cards have been sent. There is no other task left but to grieve and to talk loudly about mental health issues, PTSD, the horrid American health care system and the horrors of war. Loudly and often.

Now you know why I haven't been writing here lately. I don't know how long it will take for me to be over this tragedy but it may be weeks or months, I'm sure. I don't think I will ever be the same person. I hope to find a new purpose, one that honours some of the dreams we had for a train station in the desert, teaching young people about peace and sharing Caleb's art and writing.

Caleb and I had a good time mostly but it was a very short time.

Peace be with you, Caleb. May your spirit feel free to visit once in awhile and explore the next world in peace.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Video Tells All!

Thanks to Cam Holmstrom for staying on top of the Attawapiskat school story.

This video says all that needs to be said.

The last lines by a young male student, "We want a new school now, not next year or years from now. We want a new school now."

What are we able to do to assist this community? This problem has been going on since a diesel fuel spill of 100,000 litres in 1979. That's thirty years, folks.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Opening the Doors OR Circling the Wagons?

Who hasn't heard of One Member One Vote? Then there's the amendment put forward by the Young Liberal Commission.

Jim Curran has started a forum topic at En Famille to discuss this issue. He puts the wording for both right there up front.

I've been trying to think of a way forward. I'm in concert with the opinions expressed there favouring weighted OMOV without the Young Liberal amendment. In my opinion, the proposed amendment is worse than undemocratic, worse than taking two steps backward, it's more like circling the wagons and firing live rounds at voters saying we don't want you or your opinion.

But setting that aside for a do Liberals get where they want to go?

My first idea is to look at how we got where we are now. Why do we have commissions? I don't know for sure but I expect that the reason we have Commissions in the first place was to overcome perceived injustices or real injustices that were in the past. Or possibly to focus attention and to attract certain groups to our party and give them a seat at the table.

The question now is do those perceived injustices still exist in the minds of Liberal members? Can we overcome them using the vehicle of weighted OMOV?

It seems to me, the answer to both is YES. And the difference of opinion with the Young Liberals may be that they don't believe that the perceived injustice to youth will be or can be overcome by weighted OMOV. Others who may agree with that perception may vote for the amendment just to bring OMOV down.

How can we re-assure people that weighted OMOV really is the way to resolve perceived injustices? What weighted OMOV will do for the Liberal Party is to make it accountable to the grassroots in every single riding. It will make every single Liberal member a salesperson for our party, our core values and our policies. It will engage people in the ridings. Not just in urban areas but everywhere. If done correctly and possibly expanded beyond just leadership (sometime in the future) then I believe we can attract membership and donations in every riding.

Right now the general public sees no real benefit to belonging to a political party. This one amendment will allow the Liberal Party of Canada to be relevant in every nook and cranny of this vast country. People will sit up and take notice once they see that they CAN be involved in choosing the Prime Minister directly. All people - youth, women, men in the middle, aboriginals and seniors. With some extra effort by current members there is no reason why we can't have active and engaged riding associations with hundreds and even thousands of members.

New people will spread the work out, spread the task of fundraising and engage the voters of our country. In my opinion, we have no reason to fear these new people, Canadians share Liberal values and Liberals share Canadian values.

Part of the reason for a decrease in involvement at the polls is a lack of relevance to the daily lives of Canadians. I believe weighted OMOV is the one constitutional amendment we can make which can and will invigorate our party's renewal. It will handily overcome any perceived injustices by taking the responsibility for choosing a leader out of the hands of the old guard, the elite. Every commission member in the country ought to stand up and vote in favour of this because their power will now be back in their hands. It will be up to Youth to attract youth in every single riding. It will be up to Women to attract women in every single riding. etc.

We'll have something tangible to sell - a voice in choosing the Prime Minister.

Weighted OMOV is the way to overcome any perception of elitism or patriarchy that remains attached to a political party. Weighted OMOV is the way to build riding associations, election coffers and volunteer banks. Weighted OMOV will be the first step into the 21st century vision for our party. It's an open invitation to participate in the Liberal Party of Canada. We won't be perceived as a closed shop by the public. It is an open invitation to actively participate in our democracy.

If we vote down OMOV, we will resemble Associated Press this week trying to build a "firewall" around news content online. The internet raises people's expectations about being able to participate, to get their news where they want to get it, not where someone "allows" them to get it. The decision to build a firewall spells the end of AP, in my opinion.

If Liberal delegates do not choose OMOV, we're keeping the firewall around democratic participation.

Liberal party members need to focus attention on selling our future to Young Liberals - a future open to every Canadian who chooses to participate.

Otherwise the Liberal Party risks becoming increasingly irrelevant to every group.