Dear BOLLI Friends,
I write to you from Florida, the state where a lot of people have moved when they retire. Why not? After all, the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay are beautiful, the weather is terrific, and here in Sarasota, cultural pleasures are sophisticated and plentiful. Even life-long learning programs abound. The easy path is for retirees to sit back, read the papers, watch TV news, critique the world from their armchairs, and then share those critiques only with those whose politics agree with their own. After all, retirement has its rewards, and some might believe that inaction and armchair “jawing” are among them.
A certain caution is discernible here in Florida when people meet one another for the first time. Is it “safe” to discuss politics? (And what other subject is so front and center these days?) We don’t, after all, want to offend and argue. Who among these strangers voted for Trump and who voted for Hillary? Who didn’t vote at all? Who watches with complacency and agreement as liberal institutions in government and in society are attacked and dismantled? Communication across the great political divide not only grows more limited but is increasingly full of disbelief and rage. What are we to do with our passionately held beliefs and accompanying angst?
My beliefs and personality dictate action, constructive action. The question for me is, what kinds of action will be the most constructive? In other words, what will help to defang our present administration and re-establish a more liberal democracy that reflects our values as a welcoming, fair minded, constructive, and positive force in the world—- a Marshall Plan kind of world. Of course, some of you who read this will not agree with me, and so, I urge you to respond. Let’s communicate!
Two events that I attended here were heartening. The first was the Women’s March in January. Here in Sarasota, police estimated that 10,000 people marched! We women and men carried signs, wore pink hats, and shouted slogans as we marched along the beautiful Marina Bay and across the bridge connecting Sarasota to Bird Key. It was peaceful, and it was wonderful to be among so many like minded demonstrators. Clearly, they were not “retired” from politics and life.
This past Saturday (3/18), we attended a “town hall” where the local Congressman, Representative Vern Buchanan, held his 75th meeting of constituents since taking office five terms earlier. The Sarasota Herald Tribune said that this 75th town hall meeting (attended by more than 1,300 who packed Van Wezel Auditorium and an estimated additional 800 who couldn’t fit into the room) was unlike all his previous town hall meetings and would not soon be forgotten. We have seen television news reports of other town meetings with Republican congressional representatives and senators—full of people with strong opinions becoming raucous, erupting in chants, and even booing. That’s what this meeting was like. Retirees do not want their health benefits messed with, want veterans and people with disabilities cared for, want fair immigration policies, and more. And this meeting occurred in Florida, a state that voted for Trump.
We have been away from Massachusetts now for three months. I read The New York Times and watch MSNBC, which, of course, indicates the nature of my own political bent. I admit that I am not current with politics in Massachusetts where our citizens are overwhelmingly “democratic” and liberal, despite having a Republican Governor, Perhaps you don’t feel the need to watch your words or wonder who supported whom in the election. Perhaps you haven’t felt the need to become an activist, armchair or otherwise. Some of my friends, including BOLLI friends, are becoming active and have been eager to tell me about their involvement in church and immigration groups, grandmothers’ groups, civil liberties groups, and more.
I wonder if it is time to create a BOLLI clearinghouse for organizations and actions in this perilous time for democracy, a place where actions and activism can be discussed, and information shared. I know that beliefs and actions supported by like-minded others are more likely to be effective and succeed. Perhaps in my absence from BOLLI, a group has been formed and is already active? If so, count me in. If not, let’s do it!
See you soon around our BOLLI “campus.”
Your snow-bird friend,