Speaking out … is that what retirement’s for?

George Orwell said that “If  large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech there will be freedom of speech even if the law forbids it.  If public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted even if laws exist to protect them.

Since I read this a few days ago it has been swirling around and around in my mind.  The events that followed the recent election (to use the term loosely) in Iran is evidence of the first part; even with arrests and punishment people found a way to exercise freedom of speech.  In the face of torture.  In the face of death.  As President Obama said  “…Their [Iranian protesters] bravery in the face of brutality is a testament to their enduring pursuit of justice,…The violence perpetrated against them [Iranian protesters] is outrageous. In spite of the government’s efforts to keep the world from bearing witness to that violence, we see it and we condemn it.

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And then there’s the second part of what Orwell said.  How is it possible that within a democracy so little is being said about the rights of all to have access to health care?  How is it that there isn’t a larger outcry from the very same people who rallied to elect Obama to start with?  Why is there so little public campaigning for universal health care?  Where is the concerted, organized, rational response to the lies (thank you again to Sarah Palin for introducing death panels as a real entity) and deception that’s being perpetrated by what I will call “the right” for lack of a better way of describing this out-of-control mob?  Just a few weeks ago we witnessed what I’ve heard referred to as the Million Moron March on Washington; as these photos (as police records suggest) it wasn’t a million morons after all, perhaps fewer than 70,000.  That’s comforting to me because at least it suggests that there are fewer people being duped and misled into hatemongering than I worry about.

So, what are we all doing about this?

Maybe, just maybe, this is one of the gifts that retirement gives us.  I don’t have to worry about how what I say will affect my employer any more.  I don’t have to worry about whether or not being outspoken will mean no more advancement in my career.  Because I’m not spending long hours in my office (at least the one that provided a regular paycheck) anymore isn’t this the best opportunity I’ve ever had to protest?  Protest.  There’s something that’s been a part of my life for a very long time.

I grew into adulthood in the late 60s and early 70s.  I was too young to play a part in civil rights demonstrations, but I followed them and wished I was old enough to be there.  How many of us remember SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) or SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)?  I remember attending a rally at Cornell University (we had a friend who was a student there).  I’ll admit that some of this was mismanaged and poorly thought through … but at least we were raising our voices and saying “enough”.  Where is that happening today?  I’ve been part of any number of marches seeking more justice, more equity, more tolerance, more understanding, more peace.  I’ve even tried to start a chapter of Grandmothers for Peace in Toronto but so far haven’t had much “traction”Grandmothers for Peace.  I haven’t given up though.  I can’t.

Until now I’ve had to spread my energies around and that’s meant not having quite enough time to do anything the way or to the extent that I’d like to.  It’s different now though.  I do have more time.  I can focus my energy where I want.  Is the era of protest over for me?  I don’t think so.  My sister Fran recently told me about her own protest against bigotry and hatefulness outside of  a market in California.  She was scared for sure; it is frightening to stand nose-to-nose with ignorance.  How proud I am of her for not just walking away though.  What a good role model she is.

It’s time for me to put more thought to this.  I’m trying to do as much speaking as I can about social justice and the need for education to address real issues of how we live together.  I’m trying to think through the ways in which the gift of retirement can be invested in a more peaceful, kinder, more loving future for all.  I’ve started contacting both Muslim and Jewish elementary schools in Toronto, offering to organize and conduct a children’s choir that would sing in English, French, Arabic and Hebrew.  I’m preparing to speak at a Peace Education conference at McMaster University in November.  I’m speaking at a Canadian Red Cross youth conference called “Our World, Youth Move: Youth Taking Action” in October.  But this just isn’t enough.

How do I rally more of us to speak out?  How can we come together and turn our individual voices into a sound that’s truly loud enough to be heard?  The hatemongers get heard; we see them and hear them every day on the newscasts that give them lots of airtime for their hatefulness and stupidity.

Why aren’t we being heard?

What can I do?

What can you do?

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5 responses to “Speaking out … is that what retirement’s for?

  1. I feel the same way and keep wondering why we are not being heard and what I/we can do about it especially re the health care debate here in the U.S. From where I am looking out at it it appears to me we are not united and being heard for several reasons. One our President has not taken a firm stance on the Public Option so we can’t get totally behind him and there seems to be no one else to turn to big enough to be heard. We need a leader on this. I am heartened to see a slight shift recently with some of our Congressmen who are against the Public Option being called out on this since the majority of the people in their states want it and this is being done with large TV advertisements by a group called Firedoglake (see firedoglake.com). They are drawing great attention specifically to those opposing health care and receiving great sums of money from the big insurance companies and threatening their reelection in 2010 and 2012. I guess you have to hit them where it hurts which for many of those opposing is money and the vote. Recent polling shows 67% of U.S. population wanting the Public Option so it seems to me someone should be taking that group and utilizing it! I have wrote to my congressmen telling them if they oppose it they won’t get my vote next election and joined some online groups but I don’t feel we are being heard loudly enough as yet and it’s frustrating wanting to do more but seems there is nowhere to turn like we had during the Obama campaign. I wonder if others are finding it to be this way and what they are doing?
    I would like to hear more about the health care plans in other countries that are working well like Canada. Seems to me that is information lacking in this country. Maybe you could speak out about that Sylvia?

  2. When I was in Santa Fe a month ago (seems like so much longer) I took every opportunity I could to speak out on behalf of the Canadian health care system. Is it perfect? Of course not. But the bottom line is that everyone gets health care and nobody has to worry about going broke because they get sick. I’m a big Obama supporter and don’t really understand his apparent waffling on the Public Option; I hope that he’ll get back to making it clear that health care just has to be for everyone. For folks who are retired this has got to be a really really big worry. How fortunate I am to live here in Canada with the pension that I have; I not only know that I have access to good health care whenever I need it but my pension plan came with an insurance policy that covers drugs, chiropractors (mostly), dental work (which has already meant thousands of dollars since I retired), and various other things like massage. How blessed I am.

  3. I feel better after hearing that you have already spoken out on our health care problems in this country and your health care in Canada. I thank you for that. I too feel blessed as I worked for the Federal Govt. so essentially I retired with the same health care that our Congress and President receive which continued after retirement. But, in this country unless you work for the Federal Govt. you don’t get that. I have friends and family who can not afford to retire simply because there health care would be dropped or cost 3-4 times as much after retirement or they would be denied coverage if they were to try a different insurance company than the one offered at their workplace. They are stuck and it’s so unfair. Our children face the same problem down the road when they retire. Even with the insurance I have my premiums rise every year as well as out of pocket expenses with no caps on the insurance company. So, the way it stands without reform even my insurance cost may become too expensive in the future if I live a long time-(which I plan to do!). I am wondering if and hoping that in the end our President will not sign any health care bill which does not give us the Public Option or some form of it and I have faith in him. I think he is very intelligent so maybe he is straddling this on purpose and letting Congress fight it out till the end and then taking a stronger stand on the Public Option-maybe it’s an intended political move? Just wondering. If not, I suspect I may end up in one of those protests like in the 60’s!

  4. I too wish President Obama would come out more firmly in favor of a public option – he seems reluctant to draw a line in the sand. I wish he would get over his need to be bi-partisan on this. I have sent numerous emails to my senators and rep, and to the Whitehouse. But it also seems that the media must be in the pocket of the insurance lobby too, because their reporting is slanted against the majority of us who want the public option, and instead they focus on the “teabaggers” who are really a small majority. Also, they should have more coverage devoted to educating people, but they’re treating this as just politics as usual. It’s frustrating.

  5. There is a mean-spirited group who believe the Bill of Rights says American have the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The right to health care is not in there. I guess fear of increased taxes is their concern, but this is so selfish. My government does all sorts of things for Americans–it builds roads, regulates air flight, handles mail. Those things could also be done by businesses, but they are not. The gov’t stepped in, and I see that as a win for all Americans. People blather on about socialism, but I do not see the public option as scary or evil at all. I really think right wing talk shows are at the root of the anger. They foment it. They scare. They awfulize. And they make big bucks doing it. And the more virulent their comments, the more money they make. Sad. Can anyone else be heard over their roar?

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