Originally I compared my life as a retiree to the experience of a child in a candy store: so many fine things to choose from! Lunch with close friends? Volunteering with Red Cross? Helping with homeless and hunger missions through my church? Such a good life, and a satisfying one. But then November 2016 happened. Who knew that this slightly left-leaning moderate could transform into a full-blown liberal activist?
I was coming of age in the turbulent 1960s, too young to take to the fiery streets. But now I’m in my 60s, and not too old to fight the good fight.
I thank Donald Trump for awakening this political person buried inside me. Before his election, I gave politics only fleeting attention. It’s not that I didn’t have opinions about important issues such as gun violence, the environment, and a woman’s right to choose. I just didn’t feel compelled to share my feelings aloud or write about them in letters to the editor. I voted, but for many years I couldn’t have even named both North Carolina senators and certainly didn’t know which representative covered my district.
But then Trump happened. Who knew I had such anger-driven passion to pour into the abundance of causes out there? But here is the new me: Marching in the Women’s March in Charlotte. Lining the street with other protesters in front of Thom Tillis’s local office to support Planned Parenthood, save the environment and keep the ACA. Protesting at Romare Bearden Park on Tax Day due to Trump’s relentless refusal to reveal his taxes. Marching with PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in the Concord Christmas parade.
Much less public but still vitally important to me is my near daily email contact with North Carolina’s U.S. senators and my designated House representative, along with occasional notes to state legislators. This diligence was prompted when the ACA became seriously threatened in May, and I have not let up. I have my pet issues, but there is a never-ending profusion of topics that deserve attention. On this one thing, Trump delivers! I also phone my congressmen sometimes, and I have accidentally ended my spiel with “Amen” instead of “Goodbye.” I have to laugh at how passionate I’ve become.
That passion is not without its losses. What happened to all the time I had when I first retired? And it is not just time I have lost. Friends who cling to an apolitical life have let me know my opinions are not welcome in conversation. One permanently dropped me. I value keeping my longtime friendships, so now I swear off political talk for most gatherings, though I will never apologize for who I have become. Same with my husband, who would far prefer his wife to be the pre-Trump woman.
I still support other good causes such as those presented by my social justice-oriented church, and I remain active in disaster assistance with the Red Cross. But I’ve carved out a large space for politics in my daily life and don’t see that going away. I celebrate victories, small and large, and I wear my Indivisible tee shirts with pride. I’ve met many other people in my age bracket who, like me, say they weren’t political before. So, thank you, Donald Trump, for preventing me and many other seniors from lapsing into a relaxing, but less fruitful, retirement.