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                            Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors, and Retirees

Episode 127 Retirement,  Values and Patriotism

         I was having lunch at home. From the window I saw the mail truck stop at our door. I went to meet him and he handed me a package and a few pieces of junk mail. Then he made my day, “I enjoy your letters” he said. I write a monthly letter to the editor and when it is published a friend sends me a clipping on the back of a postcard. He must be reading my mail!  But I was delighted since hardly anyone ever comments on my letters. I thanked him for the compliment and as he prepared to drive off he said, “I think you’re a real patriot.”

The latest of my many letters had advocated the use of criminal investigation and prosecution in response to the Mumbai terror attacks rather than making war. It was a repeat of the first letter I wrote after 9/11. “It’s a crime not a war.” But it became a war and seven years later we are still wondering where the masterminds are hiding, why they attacked us and whether our wars have made us more secure.

         Moments of megalomania come when I have written a particularly persuasive letter and find it in print. Surely now everyone will see the logic of stopping the war and will try to find a diplomatic solution. My letter along with millions of small acts of dissent may eventually have some small effect but the real reason for writing is the impossibility of remaining silent as authorities persist in their madness.

         There are powerful people who do not concern themselves with the lives of soldiers, mailmen, retirees, assembly line workers or anyone else except themselves and their associates. But the mailman and I understand that war is not good for anything or anyone.

         When I was a child discussion was unknown in my Catholic Church and my dad did not take kindly to anyone who questioned his opinions. They laid out the rules we were to live by. The Church supplied us with a Catechism in which all the important questions were asked and answered. In Sunday School when asked the question, “What is the chief end of man? The reply was to be recited word for word, “The chief end of man is to honor God and love our neighbor.” I could memorize that but I never understood it or wondered what it really meant.

         With my sisters and other kids, I talked about what went on in the neighborhood but not until public high school was there any serious effort by adults to include me in a discussion.

         After college and marriage and a family I joined a Congregational church and began to speak up in meetings and joined with others to develop new programs in church and in my teaching job. I began to see myself like the man in the Norman Rockwell painting, “Freedom of Speech.”

         During the Joe McCarthy anti-communist years, I led Great Books and other discussion groups. I joined Civil Rights marches and supported Peace Protests in Honolulu in the 1960s and later in Bellingham.

         Our current military and economic disasters are the result of the lack of widespread discussion among politicians and the American public. A few dogmatic leaders like Mr. Bush, Cheney ad Rumsfeld have abused their authority    and most Americans have blindly followed them. Mr. Obama’s background as a community organizer may mean a change to including the opinions of others, even the lone letter to the editor writer 

         We need to talk with friends and neighbors to question the rules that government, churches and other organizations have developed. In the words of an old hymn, “New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth.”

         I wonder if my mailman would have made his comment if Obama had not been elected. We can all be braver and more hopeful in this period of renewal and change. I thought of discontinuing my monthly letter now that the rascals have been voted out but I think I will continue. I will exercise my freedom of speech to examine those patriotic questions, “What is the chief end of man? What is the meaning of life? Why are we here?”

         I could look up the answers but I’d rather discuss it with friends.