Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


622 We Don’t Talk Politics

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

“We don’t talk politics”. This seems to be the guiding line in conversation with most folks now days. After spending two and one-half months in a 55 and over community in southern Arizona this seems more valid than ever.

We never had one conversation with anyone other than my brother and wife about political issues during our experience as snowbirds. People go south for the winter to enjoy the warm weather and special effort is made to not allow anything to temper the time.

My brother who moved to this town over one year ago is very comfortable with his choice. He likes the place. He likes the people on his street. They get together for dinners and conversation. He told me that politics is one topic that is never discussed. Everyone seems to acknowledge the taboo.

It is a sad situation. We seem to have become so polarized in our thinking and in our lives that we know not to even mention issues of which we are all deeply concerned. What a more interesting world it would be if we could reach back into our varied experiences that have bearing on our political views and share them with others in a civil fashion.

It is pretty much the same on the street on which I live. We seem to sense the political views of neighbors and avoid talking to those we perceive of the other persuasion. We like our neighbors. We get together occasionally for parties and conversation. Politics is a topic that is noticeably absent – like the elephant in the room. Perhaps that is why we get along. We value our neighborhood, we value our neighbors, we value loca civility. We don’t want to make anyone angry. We want to respect their freedom to believe as they wish. Then we want to walk together as we go about chopping wood and carrying water. I suppose that is the best we can expect.

It is easy and I think even natural to think that this says something about the time in which we live. We think that it is unusual to be so divided. I'm not so sure that is true. I just looked back to another podcast that I wrote about ten years ago and the general tenor of the podcast was similar to what I write today. There was division and even hostility.

It does seem like we are always concerned that the sky falling. I know it was that way during the thirties and the depression. The land was blowing away. The jobs were disappearing. Almost all of rural America still lived without indoor plumbing and electricity. The New Deal seemed impossible to politically accept but it was. It was called socialism, communism or whatever other despicable label one can imagine. But the government did changed and we survived and the sky did not fall.

After the war the communist were going to bury us. We were going to be vaporized by nuclear bombs. Dominoes were going to fall. Political protests raged. Huge differences existed between so many people. We were very worried about the sky again falling – literally.

Environmental concerns stepped to the fore. Climate change warning appeared in the sixties, seventies and eights and were ignored by most. The moral majority and religious right spoke up and the division between their thoughts and others played a major role in our political discourse. Abortion, sexual preference and the constitution caused many political discourse to disintegrate into shouting matches or silence. Over the years the shouting matches seem to have increased and the silent space seems to have grown.

We retired folks seem to choose our areas of disagreement carefully. Maybe that is what retired people have internalized. We have lived through many periods of disagreement and end of the world senarious. We have lived through many shouting matches and found them nonproductive. We have seen clouds come and go. We have argued with neighbors and found the only results being a bad feeling every time our paths cross. We have learned to pick our battles and battle grounds carefully. We haven’t given up but we have learned to be more civil in our conduct around folk with whom we disagree. This could all be a bad thing if we are just walling ourselves off from public discourse about issues that matter.

Maybe it is something that is learned with age: be kind, be more tolerant, be more respectful of opinions that are not our own. Seems like that might be a good thing. We retired people have time to think about it, consider the validity of our actions and change if we deem it better.

This is Retirement Talk.

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