Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?



Episode 508(295) Politics and Persistence

Roy got arrested a few years ago in front of the White House. He was protesting with 250 others. He had a sign hanging around his neck: "WW II Vet: handle with care". They didn't handle him with care. Police handcuffed his hands behind his back; took him over to a Paddy Wagon. Roy was eighty seven years old and unsteady on his feet. He couldn't climb up the steps. The police pushed him - "roughly" up and in. He laughs about it as he tells me the story and segued right into another protest he participated in up in Canada over logging practices over 20 Years ago. This story reminded me of the time he spent walking the street in Sarasota as a sandwich board. He was encouraging voters to support the Green Party. Roy is a Harvard grad with a Phd from the University of Chicago. He is now 92 years old. He is an inspiration.

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

I met Roy during my failed attempt to enter the political arena. Roy was working for my opponent in the primaries yet called to see if I would talk to him. After our conversation Roy changed horses. He worked hard and we became lasting friends. He shames me when it comes to being a politically astute citizen.

Is that so important - to be politically astute? We all know the correct answer to that question. Our elementary teachers taught us that democracy demands an educated citizenry.

We can ignore politics some of the time but it is hard to do in a presidential election year. More than a few dollars are spent to influence our choice. I live in a state that is not targeted for persuasion and therefore have not seen one TV commercial nor have received any presidential fund raising letters. Two reasons for this may be that we don't watch television programs other than those we get via Netflix that have been scrubbed clean of commercials and that I never open what is called junk mail.

I agree with my elementary teachers concerning the necessity of staying politically informed. Of course television commercials and bulk mail advertisements have nothing to do with staying informed. They are nothing more than commercial attempts to sway. My information comes from books, magazines, NYT, and friends. I hesitate to mention NPR because I think it has declined in reliability over the years. The CBC does continue to be helpful.

It is hard to choose reliable sources. So many causes have created publicity agencies and entitled them "think tanks". Most are nothing more than ad agencies. It requires some effort to sort through the maze. We even have coined a new term, "fake news" that complicates the search.

The thought, "I just want to give up on the political scene" sometimes takes up residence in my mind. I rationalize; "I've been working on political issues for fifty years and that is just about enough. Let the new generations have their turn. Seems like their ought to be a few years of life when you should be able to kick back and let the world run on - without me." Perhaps I am just moving into a new zone in life's path. Roy Ingham never did that.

Dick Smith another friend and an earlier contributor to these podcasts remained very politically active until his death at age 89. He wrote politically oriented letters to the local paper each month. Since 9/11 he never missed. He also carried a sign in protest for whatever he thought needed it almost each Friday afternoon in front of the Federal Building. He read voraciously political and history books. He read the New York Times daily. He attended political party meetings. He also exemplified political involvement. He never weaken.

Recently the Supreme Court has unleashed unlimited corporate influence into our political process. The fortunes of these massive international business appear unlimited.  Only a few people at the very top decide who should be on the receiving end. When I consider sending my $100 to a candidate I pause - and sometimes stop - in light of the knowledge that my small contribution boarders on absurdity. Free speech is suppose to be the issue in contributing money to a campaign. I can give the money to a candidate that I support and he or she can use it to better present themselves to the voters. When I throw out a hundred dollars and someone else throws down millions of dollars  my voice is definitely drowned out. We called it "spitting into the wind" when I was a kid.

Oh, I know when many people contribute along with millions of others it counts up and of course it does. But when corporations enter the game the stakes are raised all round. There sum total creates a voice with the power of a whirlwind.

It is reasoning like this that makes my friends efforts so impressive. They do not give up. They do not go fishing or take a hike. They continue their effort to become well informed. They continue the effort to sway political elections and decisions. It is this attitude that impresses me. It is this hope that life will get better.

This is Retirement Talk.

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