Retirement? It’s great! But…


Hiking on Mt. Adams in the Cascades

Donald Trump becoming president, Hillary Clinton NOT becoming president, terrorism, global warming, Alzheimer’s disease, inner-city violence, resurgent racism, attacks on unions: these are among the things that loom largest on my worry list. Retirement has been good to me – I read; I write; I stay physically active and fit – hiking, biking, health club, basketball; I travel; I spend time with friends, my kids and grandkids; I work in my yard; I go to movies and plays; I eat in great restaurants; I even do a little gainful work as a writer now and then.

But the worry list intrudes.

Donald Trump – I’ve often said that one makes major mistakes in politics by underestimating the power of racism in the political arena. Trump is obviously betting that the other side will make such mistakes.  Could he actually win this election? It’s hard to imagine how bad it could get if he is president. Will armed, private militias in the mold of George Zimmerman’s neighborhood watch group roam the streets? Will we be involved in an endless Middle East war? Will we abandon our commitment to stem carbon emissions? Will religion become a test for admittance into an ever-expanding list of civic institutions? Will his administration accelerate the shift of the nation’s income, wealth and power to the 1 percent? The prospect of a Trump presidency is enough to fill up any rational person’s worry time.

Hillary Clinton – She’s got so much baggage and is such a mediocre (at best) campaigner (though I thought her DNC acceptance speech was quite good). Can she possibly win an election and rid us of this vermin? Will the forces of reason be able to generate the necessary turnout?

Terrorism – It boggles the mind to think that people believe they are doing good by killing and injuring other people in the name of some cause. I fear this kind of desperation will only increase as the number of climate refugees (also see The Ominous Story of Syria’s Climate Refugees) climbs and the amount of livable space contracts. There seems to be no one who has a clue about how we go about stopping this. I rather doubt that the mass killing of people is the answer.

Global warming – You knew I wouldn’t leave this out. As opposed to terrorism, we have some very good ideas about how to at least slow down the process of climate change. But we have three major barriers to the massive mobilization it will take to implement the solutions: 1. The feeling by people who understand the dangers that they can’t or don’t need to do anything themselves; 2. The resistance from people who don’t understand how dire the crisis is; and 3. The obstruction by people who stand to lose financially and the politicians who are beholden to them. There are many proposed policy solutions. Here’s one that makes a lot of sense to me, alternately called carbon fee and dividend or a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Most of all, I would like to see climate change become the defining issue of the 2016 election, not just for president, but for every elected office on the ballot. Not much hope for this I know, but it definitely won’t happen unless we say we want it.

Alzheimer’s disease – my mother has some form of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s, that has taken away her ability to make decisions about her life. Those decisions are now in my hands. It is a terrible responsibility. I have plenty of problems running my own life. Now I’m running hers, too. It’s heartbreaking and engenders a kind of moral dilemma that I really can’t figure out how to cope with.

Inner-city violence – Here in Chicago it’s worse than almost anywhere else in the United States – mostly young people killing one another over who gets to sell drugs. Day after day there’s news of another shooting or shootings. Innocent people, good kids getting killed. And not so innocent kids getting killed, dragged down by the hopelessness, joblessness, racism and poverty that’s driving it all. Then police shoot kids, kids shoot police. It’s all so sad and demoralizing for the entire city.

Resurgent racism – There is much to gain by fanning the flames of hatred, and too many people willing to do it. The Tea Party, Donald Trump, racial profiling, outrageous unemployment levels of black youth, unwarranted police violence – all symptoms of an embedded, institutionalized, premeditated system, backed by official terrorism that maintains an underclass to serve the needs of the rich and powerful. My biracial grandchildren and my black grandchildren, even as they grow up in safe neighborhoods and middle-class homes, live in a world that places barriers in their paths I never had to think about.

Attacks on unions – I spent most of my working life fighting back against the all-out assault on unions and the working people they represent. Now my union, AFSCME Council 31, whose newspaper I edited for 20 years, is under direct attack from a governor who has promised to eradicate it, leaving the public service employees it represents to fend for themselves as he lowers their standard of living and robs their families of a decent quality of life. Busting public employee unions, one of the last bastions of resistance to the corporate elite’s political agenda, is one of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s prime goals. Right now he is aiming directly at Chicago Teachers Union and AFSCME – trying to force Chicago Public Schools into bankruptcy and trying to force a strike of state employees.

The antidote to worry is action. I have tried to find a place for myself in the climate battle, not with a lot of success yet. I show up for union and climate rallies. Today I went shopping for a new shower curtain, and socks that can accommodate my mom’s swollen feet, so I can mail it all to her facility in faraway Florida. Somehow, I have to do something on this election. Hillary winning is important if we are to do anything about climate change soon enough to matter, as is taking control of the U.S. Senate away from Mitch McConnell and his minions. Here in Illinois we can contribute to flipping the Senate by helping Tammy Duckworth beat the incumbent, Sen. Mark Kirk. And of course, there’s the blog. Just writing this post has alleviated some of the anxiety.

4 thoughts on “Retirement? It’s great! But…

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