Go Down Swinging

Go Down Swinging
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BY KITT WALSH

We Boomers are the generation that protested the Vietnam War, got tear-gassed and locked up in RFK stadium, insisted on being recognized as Ms., not just somebody’s Mrs., fought for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, demanded access to contraception and abortion rights and founded more social movements than ever before in history.

Now we face ageism, threats to our medical care, nursing homes abuse, malnutrition, poverty, assaults on safety nets like Social Security and Medicaid, and a president who is a threat to everything we have stood up for and protested about our whole lives.

  • We are children of immigrants and watch as other immigrants, mothers and children, are abandoned at a bus station in the face of a hurricane, by authorities who named them “aliens” and therefore bereft of rights—even the right to live through a devastating storm.
  • We paid into Social Security our whole working lives and yet are asked to stand by while the system is privatized, the age limit for retirement raised and our benefits cut.
  • We see our health care future being trampled and dismantled under the constant threat of “Repeal” with no viable replacement and thousands thrown on off disability rolls while funding goes to buy more weapons of war.
  • We see our children still struggling under a mountain of student loan debt that, without our financial help, would cripple them for their whole lives.
  • We, whose parents fought for freedom from fascism in World War II, have lived to see Nazi’s, the Klu Klux Klan and White Supremacists encouraged by our bigoted and racist President.
  • We watch as government “by the people and for the people” may indeed perish from the earth.
  • We struggle with the words our grandchildren are still taught to recite in elementary school– “With liberty and justice for us” –because we know, if you are brown or black or gay, those words are not true in America today.

While we may not don the black bandana of the “anti-fas,” we are not voiceless and we still have one advantage over all other groups in this country; we have the numbers to be heard. There are more of us than any other group –81.3 million according to CNN– and it is time to raise our voices for one last protest. Before we leave this planet, we should leave it a better place for our having been on it.

Care2.com shines a spotlight on some of the “wrinkled radicals” who put themselves on the front line of protests this year:

  • A group of seniors blocked an entrance to the Capitol in an “Elders Standing for Democracy” event. They chanted, “Our country’s not for sale and we are too old to go to jail.” Authorities didn’t agree and locked up 85 of the protestors. One of them, Bill Lewis, told the press that they were protesting the government where, “The will of the people is no longer done.”
  • An 83-year old nun, Sister Megan Rice, snuck into a Tennessee-based nuclear weapons facility that stored radioactive fuel. She and fellow activists wrote Bible verses on the equipment and were sentenced to three years in prison for their trouble. She got out after two years and said her time locked up was “extremely enriching,” and then went right back to advocating for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
  • Francis Crowe, 98 years old, protested on a pipeline site in Massachusetts, complete with coffin to be buried at a mock funeral for the fossil fuel industry. She was arrested in her wheelchair and went with police willingly, saying that young people are too busy to get as active in protest activities. She explained, “I think it takes the older people like me to step up and put their bodies in the action.”

Elderly protestors protecting the environment allowed themselves to be dragged away at a US airbase in Japan. Native American grandmothers stood, despite freezing temperatures and authorities dousing them with firehouses, at the Dakota pipeline protest. Gray Panthers are still alive and well and protesting against Medicare changes, ageism and for LGBT rights across the country and at the United Nations; and Boomers in wheelchairs clogged the halls of the Senate to protest cuts in Medicaid.

We haven’t lost our voices, even if they’ve grown a bit rusty with age. We have wisdom, experience and a lifetime of knowing right from wrong. We have experience to share and generations beneath us to inspire. It is our right, and I would argue, our responsibility.

Attend a protest, join an online letter writing or phone calling campaign (check out Daily Kos for ongoing efforts), write letters to the editor, send money to the ACLU or the Southern Poverty Law Center, offer to stand witness when an African American is stopped by a police officer, take photos and videos, call your Congressman and Senator, sign online petitions, volunteer to paint signs, and teach your grandchildren about justice and injustice (YouTube supplies plenty of videos of our history—from the marches at Selma to modern-day Ferguson that help show the digital generation how it was and how in many ways, it still is.)

Where to begin making your voice heard? Subscribe to the newsletter or get a daily email digest of activities at Popular Resistance or visit http://www.rallylist.com for upcoming protests across the country.

In our “old age,” don’t go quietly into the good night. Speak up. Resist!

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Kitt Walsh owns a web content company, Behind Blogs (http://www.behindblogs.com), is a regular contributor to CNN Money, a public speaker on Social Media, a book editor and ghostwriter, and freelances as a feature writer, editor and marketing consultant for magazines, newspapers and private clients around the world.