Seven months remain until the November 2018 elections in the United States. Welcome to the revolution – the Blue Wave is coming.
Millions of people — upset over the mass shootings, rollbacks of environmental regulations, oppression of women, inequality, and the treatment of immigrants happening in the Trump Administration — are gearing up to unseat Republican Congresspeople, Senators, Governors, and state legislators. We see the November elections as the way to return Congress and many state houses to Democraticcontrol — the Blue Wave –turning as many states as possible from red to blue, politically speaking.
I hope that you, dear reader, want to be part of the Blue Wave that is coming. Welcome to the revolution!
The 1960s revolution
Today’s political revolution hearkens back to the 1960s when Americans and many others marched against the Vietnam War, in favor of civil rights for all, in support of the Women’s Liberation Movement, to establish the first Earth Day, and in opposition to censorship and government lies.
The 1960s revolution eventually succeeded in deposing President Richard Nixon and a group of corrupt Republican officials, ending the Vietnam War, getting laws passed to mandate voting rights for African Americans and end legal segregation, instilling concern for the environment in most Americans, and making progress toward equal rights for women.
The 1960s revolution did not succeed in all areas that it addressed, but it made substantial progress. Yet there is still plenty of work to do before American ideals match reality.
This post is being published on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, April 4, 1968. The year 1968 was a terrible year. It saw the assassination of Robert F Kennedy. Widespread rioting damaged nearly every large city in the U.S. The North Koreans seized an American ship, the Pueblo, and imprisoned its crew for nearly a year. The Vietnam War took the lives of 16,592 Americans killed and 87,388 wounded, plus 27,915 South Vietnamese killed and 172,512 wounded. And Richard M Nixon was elected President.
Welcome to the revolution of today
The power of the current revolution comes from several sources:
from high school students in Parkland, Florida, and their allies who demand changes in gun regulations following the mass shooting at their high school (#NotOneMore, #Enough);
from environmentalists and government employees (the Alt movement on Twitter) who refuse to accept the Trump Administration’s attempts to sell our public lands, repeal the Endangered Species Act, ignore science, and return to the days of widespread corporate air/water/land pollution;
from women and men in the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment;
from women and men who will not accept the rollback of women’s reproductive rights;
from DACA recipients and others who oppose deportation of immigrants living in the U.S. without official approval;
from Black Lives Matter members who work to end police misconduct and the shooting of unarmed black men, and to enable equal treatment for all people;
from people seeking to end poverty and provide a living wage for all.
All the people who have joined the revolution today are concerned about multiple issues in our country, and are determined to stop the backward movement of the Trump Administration and regain the forward movement of the Obama years.
What it takes to win
The political revolution in November will not be won by hand wringing and rending of garments. It will be won by persistent lobbying and public engagement of ordinary people like you and me. This work must be done on the ground and in person.
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
Everyone can decide to take regular action: once a day, once a week, twice a month, etc.
Everyone can find five minutes per day to do something to save our National Parks, stop corporate air pollution, stand up for people who are being bullied, share something with someone who needs it, oppose selling military weapons to civilians, stop corruption of Cabinet members, and so on.
What can you do? First, decide on one or two issues you want to support.
Then make a commitment to take regular action for that issue or issues for the next six months, until November 2018. As you take action, you become part of the revolution. Welcome to the revolution! We need you!
Suggestions for actions to take regularly
Here are some suggestions for regular action. Choose one or more to do as your part in the revolution.
Write and mail a postcard every day to your Congressperson or one of your Senators with a short message about your issue(s). It’s inexpensive but very effective. You can use 4″ x 6″ notecards from an office supply store as postcards. Buy a roll of postcard stamps at the post office. Now you’re all set!
Write an email each week to your state legislators about your issue(s). Follow an activist on Twitter so you’ll have information about your issue(s) to write about.
Visit a national park or national monument at least once in the next six months. Thank the park rangers you see.
Donate $5 to a Democratic candidate for office each month for the next six months. Go online at home or at your local library and find a candidate or candidates who are working for your issue or issues. Donate more money if you have plenty right now.
Participate in a march or demonstration at your Congressperson’s nearest local office once in the next six months. Let him or her see that you care.
Staff a voter registration table at your county fair this summer for one shift. Call the League of Women Voters to find out how to do this.
Take part in a trash pickup day in your community. Contact your local city or county solid waste department to find out when these pickup days take place.
Post a message on Facebook once a week about your issue.
Post a message on Twitter once a day about your issue.
Write an email of encouragement to a public figure who is working in support of your issue.
Volunteer monthly at an event sponsored by a nonprofit group that supports your issue.
Become a member of a nonprofit group like the Sierra Club, National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), National Parks Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, Brady Campaign, ACLU, etc. Send money, volunteer at one of their events, follow them on Facebook, etc. Lend your support by increasing a group’s membership numbers.
Speak to your friends about your issue. Encourage them to get involved with their issues. Encourage them to vote in November.
Help get out the vote for primary elections in your state. Call your local Democratic Party headquarters and ask how you can help drive voters to the polls.
Why you should take action
Since January 20, 2017, the Trump Administration has taken an astounding number of actions in overturning environmental regulations. Here is a partial list, prepared by The New York Times in January 2018:
33 rules have been overturned
Flood building standards
Proposed ban on a potentially harmful pesticide
Freeze on new coal leases on public lands
Methane reporting requirements
Anti-dumping rule for coal companies
Decision on Keystone XL pipeline
Decision on Dakota Access pipeline
Third-party settlement funds
Offshore drilling ban in the Atlantic and Arctic
Ban on seismic air gun testing in the Atlantic
Northern Bering Sea climate resilience plan
Royalty regulations for oil, gas, and coal
Inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews
Permit-issuing process for new infrastructure projects
Green Climate Fund contributions
Endangered species listings
Hunting ban on wolves and grizzly bears in Alaska
Protections for whales and sea turtles
Reusable water bottles rule for national parks
National parks climate order
Environmental mitigation for federal projects
Calculation for ‘social cost’ of carbon
Planning rule for public lands
Copper filter cake listing as hazardous waste
Mine cleanup rule
Sewage treatment pollution regulations
Ban on use of lead ammunition on federal lands
Restrictions on fishing
Fracking regulations on public lands
Migratory bird protections
Department of Interior climate policies
Rule regulating industrial polluters
Safety standards for ‘high hazard’ trains
24 rollbacks are in progress
Clean Power Plan (this one happened in March 2018)
Paris climate agreement
Car and truck fuel-efficiency standards
Offshore oil and gas leasing
Status of 10 national monuments
Status of 12 marine areas
Limits on toxic discharge from power plants
Coal ash discharge regulations
Emissions standards for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants
Emissions rules for power plant start-up and shutdown
Sage grouse habitat protections
Regulations on oil and gas drilling in some national parks
Oil rig safety regulations
Regulations for offshore oil and gas exploration by floating vessels
Drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge (this one is happening now)
Hunting method regulations in Alaska
Requirement for tracking emissions on federal highways
Emissions standards for trailers and glider kits
Limits on methane emissions on public lands
Permitting process for air-polluting plants
Use of birds in subsistence handicrafts
Coal dust rule
Haze rule for national parks
Review process for forest restoration project
10 rollbacks are in limbo
Wetland and tributary protections
Methane emission limits at new oil and gas wells
Limits on landfill emissions
Mercury emission limits for power plants
Hazardous chemical facility regulations
Groundwater protections for uranium mines
Efficiency standards for appliances
Efficiency standards for federal buildings
Rule helping consumers buy fuel-efficient tires
Aircraft emissions standards
This list was published Jan. 31, 2018, by The New York Times.
Do you want to live in a country with no emission standards for power plants? Where you can dump mining trash in a mountain stream? Where you can shoot endangered animals?
I don’t. So I’m taking action whenever and wherever I can. I hope you will too.
But wait – there’s more!
Another way you can help is to take inventory of your own behavior.
How we live every day has serious consequences for the earth and its animals and plants. BE the changes you want to see in human society. See what more you can do to slow down the destruction of the environment.
Are there ways you could recycle more items?
Are you buying food with the least amount of disposable packaging?
Are you carrying a reusable cup to work and in your car?
Are you refusing to buy things that are plastic?
Are you driving a fuel-efficient car?
Are you taking public transportation when you can?
Are you reducing your carbon footprint?
Are you using green cleaning products, personal care products, and low wattage Energy Star appliances?
Are you combining errands into one trip instead of several?
Are you buying locally produced food, instead of food grown in other countries, provinces, or states far from where you live?
Combine activism and personal ethics to make the biggest impact you can.
Resisting the many ways that Republicans are trying to reshape the country and destroy environmental progress is HARD! It takes persistence and determination!
Welcome to the revolution! If you value our air, water, animals, plants, and land, then you need to join the revolution. If you care about other people and want them to have food, shelter, and health insurance, then you need to join the revolution.
Disappointed – we’ve all felt this way at times. And it can be difficult to move on. Disappointment can grab hold of your mood and make it tough to concentrate on other issues that you have to handle.
Everything in life can seem hopeless if your disappointment is intense. But no one wants to stay in that state. So how do we go about dealing with disappointment so we can put it aside and return to our regular selves?
That’s what I’m going to tackle in this post: how you can succeed in dealing with disappointment.
What is disappointment, exactly?
Disappointment is a feeling “of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations,” says Google. Merriam-Webster Dictionary suggests “ unhappiness from the failure of something hoped for or expected to happen”. The Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries seem to agree.
The feeling of sadness can be strong. You may find yourself crying over the issue that led to your disappointment. You may feel frustrated, hopeless, defeated. It may be hard to fall asleep because you are obsessing over what happened, or didn’t happen.
You didn’t get the job you applied for.
Your auto mechanic told you that the flat tire can’t be fixed and a new tire will cost $250.
Your spouse/partner can’t make it to a special event you had planned on attending together.
The outfit you bought for a special occasion no longer fits and you don’t have the money for a new one.
You didn’t get chosen for the team you wanted to join. Or for the Olympics, after you spent your whole life training for it.
You didn’t receive the gift you were hoping for. Or any gift. There was nothing under the Christmas tree.
Your friends or relatives cancelled their visit to see you.
Your children don’t want to spend time with you.
You can feel disappointment in many different situations. It washes over you when what you hoped for and expected doesn’t happen.
So a key element of disappointment is the expectations that we have for something. When our expectations don’t turn into reality, we respond with a feeling of sadness, displeasure, or unhappiness.
It’s been said that “expectations are resentments under construction….” I might even go so far as to say that expectations are sometimes “shame under construction”. (Quotation marks added.)
Yes, shame. It’s a part of disappointment!
Well-meaning but unchecked expectations are loaded with potential shame and resentment bombs…. When we develop expectations and base our opinions of ourselves on meeting them, we can invite feelings of shame. When we allow our happiness to be contingent upon others, we set ourselves up for resentment.
In other words, we feel shame because reality didn’t live up to our expectations. In the eyes of important other people, our failure to achieve what we expected is a cause for shame. It’s our fault.
How do we develop our expectations?
Generally, our expectations come from these sources:
(1) Our beliefs about how things ought to be: brides should wear a certain color and style of dress, cars should cost a certain amount, a friend should treat you in a certain way, your adult children should choose to spend a certain amount of time with you, and so on.
These ideas come from our cultural backgrounds. They are taught to us by parents, other family, school, TV and movies, our religious or spiritual tradition (if any), work experiences, and our previous relationships, says Scott Kedersha.
(2) Our beliefs about how things WILL be: we will finish school, graduate from college, have lots of friends, be successful in a career, never be fired or laid off from a job, have a long happy marriage, have children who respect us, retire with plenty of money.
Our parents and TV shows are great sources for these beliefs about how the course of a person’s life will unfold. And unfortunately, most of those beliefs will turn out to be wrong.
We often don’t finish school on time or at all.
We often don’t get admitted to the college of our choice.
If we do get married, we find that half of all marriages end in divorce, including ours.
Most people face job loss at some point during their lives.
Our children can die, get a serious disease, become addicted to drugs, make bad choices and end up in jail, or refuse to speak to us when they are adults.
Our homes can be destroyed by fire, tornado, flood, earthquake, or other natural disaster.
When we retire from full-time work (or lose a job and are not able to get another one in our later years), we find that we can no longer live in the style to which we were accustomed.
Life is FULL of evidence that our beliefs about how things SHOULD be and how things WILL be are actually mistaken. So because we have relied on these beliefs as though they were true, we feel DISAPPOINTMENT.
So you’re disappointed. Now what?
You can process your disappointment using five steps. Here they are:
The first step in dealing with your disappointment is to acknowledgeit. Say it out loud: “I’m disappointed because….” and finish the sentence with your individual situation. Some examples:
I’m disappointed because I didn’t get that job that I expected to get.
I’m disappointed because I didn’t make the team I expected to be chosen for.
I’m disappointed because I no longer look 35.
I’m disappointed because my car needs an expensive repair and I expected that I would never have to spend any money on the car.
I’m disappointed because my spouse or partner chose someone else and now I’m alone.
I’m disappointed because I don’t have the money to spend on things that I want to buy.
And so on.
Once you acknowledge your disappointment, it’s time to move to the second step: figure out where your expectations came from. Some examples:
I expected to get that job because my qualifications fit what the job description said. In the past, I have been successful at getting jobs. So I thought that this time, I would also get the job. In other words, I expected the future to be like the recent past.
I expected to make the team because I have good skills. People have told me that I’m good at the skills that are needed for that team. I thought that the people who choose team members would recognize my skills and choose me. But they didn’t.
I expected to look younger than my age because my mother did, and because people have always told me that I have beautiful skin and lovely, thick hair. But now that I am over 70, I no longer look like I’m 35. Imagine that! When I look in the mirror, I see an older woman. This is shocking to me.
I expected my car to last forever, or at least until I paid off the car loan. I thought I would never get a flat tire or have to replace the timing belt or the brakes or the fuel pump (and on and on), even though I know intellectually that these maintenance costs would occur for most cars more than 4 years old.
And so on. Identify the source of your expectations/beliefs.
The third step: determine whether your beliefs were realistic.
I expected the future to be like the past. This is not realistic,
because conditions change and I change.
I expected others to recognize and reward my skills, which would lead to my being chosen for the team. But I failed to take into account that other applicants might have better skills than I have, and that the people who choose the team members might not want me for one reason or another.
I was unrealistic in thinking that my physical body would not show the physical signs of aging.
I was mistaken about my car being different from all other cars. I should have saved money for necessary repairs that are normal and those that are statistically likely.
The fourth step: adjust your beliefs to fit more closely with reality, i.e., lower your expectations. This is difficult, but you can do it.
I didn’t get the job I wanted. But I still want to work, so I will find other jobs to apply for that may be more closely aligned with my experience and skills. I may not get the perfect job, but I’ll get a job.
I didn’t get chosen for that team, but I can find other teams in my area that may need new members. I may have to join a less prestigious team.
I no longer look 35, but I can go to a salon for a haircut, and I can fix my hair and makeup so that I look as good as I can.
I will start a savings plan for car repairs, beginning today, with $10 from my wallet. And I will put $10 into my savings every week so that I will be prepared for the next needed repair.
And the fifth and final step:learn to accept what IS.
My new job has fewer responsibilities than my previous job, so I
won’t need to worry about it on nights and weekends.
My new team has some interesting people on it. I look forward to getting to know them.
I like my new hairstyle, and I look pretty good for my age.
I saved for my next car repair, and when the air filter and fuel filter needed to be replace, I had the cash to pay for them.
Having accepted disappointment and processed it, you can move on.
As you go through the five steps for dealing with disappointment, you will find that your attitude will improve. Bradley Foster in Huffington Post said
When you adjust your expectations to fit reality, you are much less likely to experience disappointment. In time, it will become a rarer occurrence. You don’t have to give up hope. We can still anticipate a good outcome, just be ready to be okay with “what is” and accept it.
As you face the future, you are less likely to experience intense disappointment. You’ve weathered your most recent disappointment using these five steps. So now it’s clear that you can handle disappointment in the future, when it occurs. You’ll expect less from other people and random events, and be more capable at confronting reality.
When you acknowledge what happened, figure out why you expected what you believed would happen, determine whether your belief was realistic, adjust your belief to be closer to reality, and choose to accept what is, your life will be less stressful.
You will find that you are happier and more relaxed as you face the future without unrealistic hopes and expectations.
Remember: everything will be all right in the end. If things are not all right now, then this is not the end.
You probably said that to yourself when you saw the title of this blog post.
Good! That’s why I wrote it! I want you to defend yourself and read on. You will learn something that probably you don’t want to know.
No matter what your racial or ethnic background, racism affects you.
And you need to know about it. Racism is built in to European American societies, and if you are an American, a Canadian, a Briton, an Australian, a New Zealander, or a European, or live in any of these places for a while, then you are affected by it.
This article will deal with specifically American racism. So we’ll look at American racism and your part in it.
First, let’s confront the issue of white privilege.
What is “white privilege”?
“White privilege” is the idea that if you are white, you never have to think about the advantages that you have because of your skin color.
If you are or appear white (Caucasian), then you have white privilege. Yes, even if you didn’t know it, you have it. If you are or appear to be one of the other rainbow colors — black, brown, red, yellow — you are treated differently from white people. People of other colors in the U.S. don’t have white privilege, but you’ve certainly seen it in action.
We all know there is no such thing as “white” people. But that’s the fictional color that the dominant European-American descendants have adopted as their own.
Here’s how white privilege works — read on. This is the first step in understanding American racism and your part in it.
Think about this description of white privilege created by students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst:
White privilege is a set of advantages and/or immunities that white people benefit from on a daily basis beyond those common to all others. White privilege can exist without white people’s conscious knowledge of its presence and it helps to maintain the racial hierarchy in this country.
The biggest problem with white privilege is the invisibility it maintains to those who benefit from it most. The inability to recognize that many of the advantages whites hold are a direct result of the disadvantages of other people, contributes to the unwillingness of white people, even those who are not overtly racist, to recognize their part in maintaining and benefiting from white supremacy.
White privilege is about not having to worry about being followed in a department store while shopping. It’s about thinking that your clothes, manner of speech, and behavior in general, are racially neutral, when, in fact, they are white. It’s seeing your image on television daily and knowing that you’re being represented. It’s people assuming that you lead a constructive life free from crime and off welfare. It’s about not having to assume your daily interactions with people have racial overtones.
White privilege is having the freedom and luxury to fight racism one day and ignore it the next. White privilege exists on an individual, cultural, and institutional level.
“Being white means never having to think about it.”
That description written by students forms the introduction to one of their university courses, and was published in 2003.
One of the earliest published discussions of white privilege in the U.S. was written by Peggy McIntosh and published in 1989: “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. McIntosh, who taught Women’s Studies, wrote of her awakened consciousness:
Describing white privilege makes one newly accountable…. Having described it, what will I do to lessen or end it? …. [emphasis added]
… I began to understand why we [white women] are justly seen as oppressive [by black Americans], even when we don’t see ourselves that way. I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence.
McIntosh lists 26 ways that she benefited in her life due to her white privilege. Here are five of them:
If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would be willing to live.
I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of people of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
People who identify as black, brown, red, or yellow most likely would not see those five examples as true for themselves.
Are you getting the idea about what white privilege is? I encourage you to go to McIntosh’s article and read the rest of the list. Click here.
Even if you never thought about the concept of white privilege before, I want you to think about it now. Take it in. If you are white, you have it. You have benefited from it, due to the disadvantages for people of color that American society has perpetuated.
The next section will discuss those disadvantages and their effects on the American economy.
In summary, white privilege is the set of often unacknowledged benefits that a white person has in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, the UK, and New Zealand, just by virtue of possessing a white skin and the cultural background of these places.
Once you acknowledge that you benefit from white privilege, you have to give up the idea that you live in a free country that rewards people based solely on merit. You’re not alone. Most white people in the world think that racism doesn’t affect them because they are not people of color. But it affects everyone. Everyone is responsible for American racism and your part in it.
McIntosh writes: “In my class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.”
Now that you know what white privilege is and how you got it, if you are white, let’s move on to see how white privilege and systemic American racism and your part in it affect the American economy.
How white privilege affects the economy
White privilege pervades all aspects of American life. By contrast, racism and discrimination based on skin color pervade all aspects of the lives of people of color. Whether immigrants or U.S.-born, people of color are treated differently from whites in America in hiring, pay, educational opportunities, housing, lending, policing, and dispensing of justice.
Those differences in treatment are illegal. They directly violate the Civil Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees everyone “the equal protection of the laws”:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv
Differences in hiring, pay, housing, educational opportunities, lending, policing, and dispensing of justice are what lead to and perpetuate the enormous economic inequality that exists in the U.S. between whites and people of color.
Let’s look at a few examples of how differential treatment affects the economic standing of individuals.
Two people –one white, one black–with equal educational background and years of experience apply for the same job. The white person gets the job. The black person does not. The white person begins work and earns income. The black person keeps on looking for work, not earning yet. The black person has fallen behind the white person in career and earnings.
Two people–one white, one black–are hired for positions with the same title and responsibilities. But the white person receives a higher rate of pay than the black person. The white person earns more and can afford to pay for housing, food, transportation, insurance, medical care, and education more easily than the black person who earns less pay for the same work.
Two people–one white, one black–apply for acceptance to a college. They have equal high school grade averages and SAT scores. Both have participated in extracurricular activities and have won awards. The white person is accepted and receives a scholarship. The black person is put on a waiting list.
Two people–one white, one black–apply for mortgages to purchase a home. Both have good credit histories. Both receive approval to receive mortgages, but the black person is charged a higher rate of interest than the white person, and will have to pay more each month for housing as a result.
Two people–one white, one black–drive their Hondas through a white neighborhood on their way to work. Both have one tail light out. Both are
pulled over by white police officers. Both tell the police officers that they didn’t know about the tail light. The white person is given a written warning to get the tail light fixed. The black person is asked why he is in the neighborhood. He is arrested, his car is searched, he is taken to jail and charged with reckless driving, resisting arrest, and obstructing justice. The black person now has a criminal record which affects his future prospects for education, jobs, and housing–even if the bogus charges are dismissed by a judge.
Two people–one white, one black–are arrested for possession of illegal drugs. The white person is charged with misdemeanor drug possession, found guilty, and given a one-year suspended sentence and fine, plus court costs. The black person is charged with possession with intent to sell, found guilty, and given a one-year sentence and fine, plus court costs. The black person has to serve the time, loses his or her job, loses his or her apartment, loses his or her credit rating because he or she can’t pay the fine (now that he or she has no income). He or she completes the sentence and is released, homeless and unemployed.
These examples are typical of events that happen every day all over the U.S. You can ask any person of color whether he or she has experienced discrimination in hiring, pay, housing, educational opportunity, lending, policing, and dispensing of justice and you will hear similar stories.
Universities have confirmed these kinds of discrimination in study after study. Northwestern University researchers found in 2017 that employers are still discriminating against African-American job applicants as badly as they did in 1989:
“The researchers arrived at that conclusion after examining the results from every available field experiment on racial discrimination in American hiring that was conducted between 1989 and 2015. To measure the effect of racial prejudice in the hiring process, these experiments deployed either resume tests or in-person audits. In the first case, hiring managers are presented with resumes from applicants who have nearly identical qualifications, but a diverse array of stereotypically white, black, or Latino names. In the second case, similarly qualified white and nonwhite applicants go in person to apply for a job.”
“In 24 such studies–together representing more than 54,000 applications submitted for more than 25,000 job openings–white applicants received, on average, 36 percent more callbacks than equally qualified African-Americans. Critically, this average held relatively steady throughout the 26-year period when the studies were done.” Eric Levitz, “The American Economy Isn’t Getting Any Less Racist,” in New York, Sept 2017).
The research of Roland G. Fryer Jr., Devah Pager and Jörg L. Spenkuch found that the wage gap between white and black workers is 30 to 35%.
Are you comfortable knowing that an African American who has your same educational achievement and work experience is earning 30 to 35% less wages than you are? I’m not.
A study of educational opportunity published in 2014 “found that black, Latino and Native American students have less access to advanced math and science courses and are more likely to be taught by first-year instructors than white students. Black and Native American students are also suspended and expelled at disproportionate rates.” Another of the study’s findings was that “Black students were more than three times as likely to attend schools where fewer than 60 percent of teachers meet all state certification and licensure requirements.” The study examined all 97,000 public schools in the U.S. covering 49 million students. That’s 100% of all schools, not a sample.
A 2013 study by the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found significant discrimination in housing still exists. The study findings included a large sample:
More than 8,000 tests were conducted in a nationally representative sample of 28 metropolitan areas. In each test, two trained individuals—one white and the other black, Hispanic, or Asian—contacted a housing provider to inquire about a housing unit randomly selected from recently advertised homes and apartments. The two testers in each pair were matched on gender and age, and both presented themselves as equally and unambiguously well-qualified to rent or buy the advertised unit.
When renters meet in person with housing providers, they are almost always told about at least one available unit. However, Hispanic renters are slightly more likely than equally qualified whites to be told that no homes or apartments are available (1.8 percentage points). Moreover, in about half of all
in-person visits, one tester is told about more available units than the other, with whites significantly more likely to be favored than minorities…. Black, Hispanic, and Asian renters are all told about fewer housing units than equally qualified white renters. Blacks and Hispanics are told about one fewer unit for every five in-person visits; Asians are told about one fewer unit for every
Black Americans are more likely to have their cars searched.
Black Americans are more likely to be arrested for drug use.
Black Americans are more likely to be jailed while awaiting trial.
Black Americans are more likely to be offered a plea deal that includes prison time.
Black Americans may be excluded from juries because of their race.
Black Americans are more likely to serve longer sentences than white Americans for the same offense.
Black Americans are more likely to be disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.
Black Americans are more likely to have their probation revoked.
These examples of discrimination in hiring, pay, education, housing, policing, and criminal justice, when taken together, create a system that prevents people of color from achieving at the same rate at which whites achieve. Discrimination has consequences.
The American economy loses the contributions of millions of people when racial discrimination is as pervasive as it is. A 2013 study by the W.K.Kellogg Foundation discovered the magnitude of the economic losses:
We found that, if the average incomes of minorities were raised to the average incomes of whites, total U.S. earnings would increase by 12%, representing nearly $1 trillion today. By closing the earnings gap through higher productivity, gross domestic product (GDP) would increase by a comparable percentage, for an increase of $1.9 trillion today. The earnings gain would translate into $180 billion in additional corporate profits, $290 billion in additional federal tax revenues, and a potential reduction in the federal deficit of $350 billion, or 2.3% of GDP.
[Analysts found that] by 2030, closing the minority earnings gap would increase federal tax revenues by over $1 trillion and that even a 10% reduction in federal Medicaid and income support would reduce these safety net expenditures by nearly $100 billion. The increase in tax revenues and decrease in outlays would combine to produce over $1.1 trillion dollars annually that could be used to reduce the debt, lower taxes, or shift spending to other priorities.
The study pointed out the financial effects of housing discrimination as well:
In 2012, 74% of white families owned homes. In contrast, 44% of African American families, 46% of Hispanic families, 51% of American Indian/Aleut/Eskimo families, and 57% of Asian American and Pacific Islander families owned their own home.12 The black/white wealth gap increased from $85,000 in 1984 to $236,500 in 2009, driven primarily by the racial difference in the number of years of homeownership.
In addition to the effects of prison time on a person’s lifetime earnings and job prospects, we have to realize the costs of operating state prisons: $57 billion annually. Imagine the effects of adding that kind of money to school budgets instead of spending it on housing inmates who are disproportionately members of nonwhite racial groups.
What you can do as an individual
White privilege and the disadvantages it places on people of color are serious problems. As I’ve explained in the previous sections, racism and discrimination cause trouble in every aspect of life for people of color. White people have benefited from American racism and your part in it.
Most (92%) African Americans experience discrimination and racism. That discrimination is based mostly on individual prejudice (49%) compared to laws and policies (25%) or a combination of both (25%). These are among the key findings of a recent survey conducted by National Public Radio, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which asked African Americans about their personal experience of discrimination.
I hope you’re no longer saying to yourself, “Racism has nothing to do with ME.” You can see now that racism DOES affect you, even though you may have been unaware of it before reading this far.
So what can you do about it, now that you are aware?
Here are suggestions for those who want to help end American racism, drawn from online articles written by African Americans:
“Become an ally.Allies—those who offer their support even though they derive no direct advantage and may even run risks by doing so—are important to any movement for justice and equality.” (Times-Union blog)
“The first thing any ally needs to realize is you can act as an ally, but you can’t be an ally by your own designation alone. It is up to members of the group with whom you are seeking to stand in solidarity to call you an ally.” (Ben and Jerry blog)
“Examine your own biases. We must take a look at what makes us uncomfortable. Do you have kneejerk reactions to LGBTQ issues, to media reports of “riots” (that are actually just protests)? Everyone is biased in some way: it’s unavoidable. The key is to be honest about it so that we can begin to try to see each other for who we are.” (Ben and Jerry blog)
STOP participating in discriminatory practices. If you’re a rental agent or real estate professional, then don’t make decisions about clients based on the clients’ race or ethnic identity. If you have the power to hire and fire people, then start recruiting and hiring more people of color for your business or profession.
If you’re a teacher, school administrator, or school board member, then become active in seeing that information about the history of people of color is taught at your school, that teachers of color are hired, that music and art created by people of color are brought to your school in amounts equal to music and art created by white people.
If you are shopping in a store, then make it a point to smile and say hello to shoppers of color. If you attend a meeting, then go and sit down by people of color and greet them as you would your white friends. Be sure that you ask candidates for office how they will help end racial discrimination in their constituents’ neighborhoods and businesses. You can help end American racism.
“Diversify your media. Be intentional about looking for and paying close attention to diverse voices of color on television, on radio, online and in print to help shape your awareness, understanding and thinking about political, economic and social issues.” (the root.com)
“Don’t be afraid to be unpopular. If you start calling out all the racism you witness (and it will be a lot, once you know what you’re seeing), some people might not want to hang out with you as much. But think about it like this: Staying silent when you witness oppression is the same as supporting oppression. So you can be the popular person who stands with oppression, or you can be the (maybe) unpopular person who stands for equality and dignity for all people. Which person would you prefer to be?” (the root.com) You can help end American racism.
“Learn about our country’s history with slavery and racism—a history that is far from ‘in the past.’ No one’s asking you to be an expert. But the more you know, the better able you’ll be to help fight white supremacy, homophobia, sexism, and so much else that’s eating away at our culture.”(Ben and Jerry blog)
“Adhere to the philosophy of nonviolence as you resist racism and oppression. Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for nonviolent conflict reconciliation as the primary strategy of the civil rights movement and the charge of his “final marching orders.'” (the root.com)
Most important: Don’t give up. Knowledge is power. Now you know more about American racism and your part in it. You know there are many parts to it, and that it is built into many systems. And you know that you can do something about it.
If you have an experience with American racism to share, please tell me in the Comments section.
No, I’m not trying to depress you, dear reader, or bring you down. I’m trying to give you some tools to handle FORESEEABLE, painful losses during retirement years. You may and likely WILL suffer losses–many of them.
They’re part of living and growing old. Sad, but true.
Isn’t it better to be prepared than to be surprised?
You don’t have to forge ahead blindly into the many losses that come with aging. This post will tell you about the types of losses you will suffer, the likely responses you may have, and the types of coping mechanisms you can use to survive the losses.
So let’s get on with it. Here’s how to handle painful losses during retirement.
Types of losses you will suffer
Your losses will involve people and pets, roles, objects, physical aspects of your body, and states of being.
People and Pets
Your most difficult losses will be the serious injuries, terminal illnesses, divorces, and deaths of yourself and those you love – both human and nonhuman. I include pets in this category because many adults love their pets as though the pets were children or companions.
I’m sorry to remind you about the upcoming losses of people and pets, but it’s true; they will happen. Here are some statistics from the Social Security Administration on senior citizen losses of a spouse or partner by death or divorce:
12% of people 65 and over are already divorced
5% of people 65 and over have never married
25% of people 65 and over are widowed
58% of people 65 and over are married or living with a partner.
By age 65, 37% of people have ALREADY lost a spouse or partner. The rest — 58% — will lose their spouse or partner in the years after age 65.
In 2010, the life expectancy for people aged 65 was 17.7 years for men and 20.3 years for women. This means if you were 65 in 2010, you’re going to live an average of either 17.7 more years or 20.3 more years, depending on your gender.
In 2010, 1.8 million or 72.8 % of the total 2.5 million deaths in the United States occurred to people aged 65 and over (Murphy, Xu,
and Kochanek, 2012). Heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, nephritis, and accidents were the 9 leading causes of deaths in 2010, according to the same study. (Murphy, Sherry L., Jiaquan Xu, and Kenneth D.Kochanek. 2012. Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2010.National Vital Statistics Reports 60/4. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Availableat <www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_04.pdf>)
Every one of those 2.5 million deaths was a loss to a family and to friends. Most of the deaths were people 65 and over, but a substantial number (700,000) were to people under 65. Those deaths were of people who were someone’s daughter, son, grandson, granddaughter, sister, or brother. That’s another kind of loss that you may suffer.
And that’s just one year’s worth of deaths.
Loss of a child, parent, sibling, or grandparent will happen, and likely more than once during our retirement years because today many of us have more than 20 years of retirement to live through. So we will lose those we love.
Losses from death or divorce WILL occur. So we might as well be ready to cope with these painful losses during retirement.
After losing a spouse by death or divorce, many older people keep pets as companions to help them deal with loneliness and to give them something to love. Some have already had dogs or cats or both throughout their lives. Others adopt pets after a loved person passes away. Pets offer companionship and unconditional love.
Caring for them offers people a way to share their love and desire to take care of another living being. Giving the pet a home can stave off loneliness.
But pets age quickly and die. Cats can live from 12 to 15 years very often, as can small dogs. Large dogs usually live to age 9 or 10, and medium-sized dogs to age 12 or 13. Of course there are exceptions; some live longer, some shorter. Some adults have horses, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, or cattle that they keep as pets or companions in a barn on a farm or in a rural area that allows large animals.
When someone adopts a pet, he or she knows that the pet will eventually die. Although we try not to think about it, the beloved dog or cat may grow white around the face, limp, become thin, or have trouble moving by around age 7 or 8. When we see these signs of aging, we know that there is not much time left. Dealing with the loss of a loving animal is very hard and emotionally draining.
When we retire from career or work or both, we automatically lose our important roles as members of a profession or occupation, and our roles as employees, bosses, or teammates at a place of business. Along with the role loss goes loss of the respect and admiration that came from other people who learned of our chosen career or job.
When I retired from my career as a university professor 13 years ago, I was no longer a teacher, no longer an employee of a university system, no longer a colleague in a department of other professors, and no longer a person with a secure job. These four identities disappeared the moment I drove home on December 31, 2004. I lost these roles.
When I was divorced 30 years ago, I lost my roles as wife and partner. I kept the role of parent. I lost my role as part of a couple in a neighborhood group of couples, which meant I no longer had a social life with couples. I gained the role of divorced woman, which meant that I was seen as a danger by married women in my age group. I had to develop an identity as a single woman, a single parent, the head of a family of three, solely responsible for the maintenance of a home. It was a tough process of role loss and change.
When we lose familiar roles, we face uncertainty and feel pain. Familiar patterns of behavior are now gone. What do we do instead? How do we adopt new patterns of behavior to fit our changed status? How do we handle these painful losses during retirement?
For me, when I retired from teaching, I didn’t know what to do with all the time that was suddenly freed up. Used to working 60 hours per week, I now had 60 hours to fill. Used to commuting to work 45 minutes each morning and evening, I now had to find other reasons to leave the house.I had to create a new role for myself that was not the role of professor or employee or colleague, while grieving for these familiar roles that I lost. I had to think differently about myself. This process took a long time.
Similar losses occur to roles when you move house. In your former house/condo/apartment, you lived in a community of people who knew you as the owner or renter of that home. You had specific duties as a member of that community. You moved in a system of relationships among your neighbors, your local government, your local stores, your local medical facilities and schools, and so on.
But when you move house more than a block or so away from the old place, you lose the community of people and some or all of the relationships that were familiar. You have to reestablish your duties in a new place, meet new people, learn the culture of the new place. It’s difficult. You must simultaneously give up your old, familiar roles, and create new roles in the new place. These painful role losses must be grieved as you initiate new roles in retirement. I have written a series of blogs about my experience in giving up a large home and moving to a small condo.
Many retired people downsize their living arrangements either before or during their early retirement years. Some stay in their familiar homes until they lose their spouse or partner. Then they move somewhere else and lose their homes and familiar community relationships. Retirement blogger Jeanette Lewis has written about her experience with moving: http://postworksavvy.com/letting-go-of-a-place-called-home/.
It’s often helpful to read about how others survived the experiences of loss that you are facing.
Along with the loss of a partner or other family member, a job or career, and/or a familiar home comes the loss of important objects.
During our lives, most of us become fond of certain pieces of furniture such as a favorite chair. We may hoard special dishes or wine glasses or mugs, collect shells or glass horses or model cars and so on.
These objects are part of our familiar, comfortable spaces in our home place. But when we are faced with giving them up, we suffer another set of painful losses during retirement — letting go of our stuff.
This can happen as a result of a move from a larger place to a smaller place. Or it can result from a fire, a flood, a hurricane, or some other natural disaster than damages or destroys our homes or businesses or both. It could even be the outcome of a robbery.
Losing our stuff is painful. When I was going through divorce, my husband drove a rented truck to our home one Saturday and took away about half of our furniture. This loss left me with an empty living room and dining room. I was allowed to keep the kitchen table “for now,” but eventually had to let him have that too. These furniture items came to us from his family over a period of years. They replaced furniture items that were mine or that we had purchased together.
If you have ever visited someone in a nursing home, then you know that the amount of space each resident has is very small compared to the home that he or she gave up.
Sometimes a resident can have a piece of furniture like a china cabinet or a shelf in her or his room, with some favorite collectibles or mementos displayed there. That helps the resident to retain some familiar items from the earlier stages of life. But everything else from the former home is gone: given away, sold, or placed in storage. The process of moving into a nursing home is one of the painful losses in retirement that each of us may have to face. There is so much to give up – so many objects to lose.
Physical aspects of your body
Growing physically old is also a process of coming to terms with painful losses in retirement. We are faced with losing our mobility, our physical abilities, our strength, our endurance, our body image, our sexual activity, our hair, our teeth, our sight, our hearing, our sense of smell, our sense of taste, and eventually our lives through death.
Each of these aspects of our physical body represents another loss. Some of us will have more losses than others. Each loss must be faced, addressed, grieved, and accepted. Each loss brings with it more changes and adjustments that must be made.
When my father reached age 70, his lung disease (COPD) entered a stage where he required oxygen to breathe. This meant, in the 1980s, that he had to drag around a tank of oxygen on a little cart and wear an oxygen tube in his nose and accompanying headgear at all times. This change in his physical body was difficult for him to accept and identified him as a “patient” – a role he hated. It also meant he had to give up his mobility to a large extent. He could no longer drive and had to persuade my mother to take him wherever he wanted to go in the car. He did not like to be dependent in that way. He got out of breath easily, and had to walk slowly. He had to give up beloved activities like golf, gardening, lawn care, fixing things around the house, and going on trips. These losses caused him a lot of psychological pain.
A woman I know is nearing 80 years old. She suffers from chronic pain and uses a walker to get around. She has lost most of her mobility, although she can still drive. She also suffers from allopecia (hair loss), and has experienced the body “sagging” that many older women develop when gravity pulls. This makes finding well-fitting, attractive clothing difficult in the thrift shops where she gets her clothes. She no longer wears makeup, even lipstick. When you look at her and take all these factors in, it seems like she has given up on herself. The changes in her physical body have become overwhelming. Other people avoid her because she treats others cruelly and constantly criticizes those around her.
A man I knew, who has now passed away, suffered from diabetes and lost both of his feet in his late 50s. He used a wheelchair to get around, and had to be carried from the wheelchair to the family van whenever he went somewhere, because he was not capable of getting from the wheelchair to the van by himself. His sons or his man friends did the transferring. He had no teeth left, and his eyesight was poor. But this man did not give up. He accepted his physical losses as just part of his journey. He attended spiritual ceremonies, sang, told stories, and enjoyed his meals and especially hot coffee. He died at the age of 64, but he lived every day as fully as possible up until he passed away.
These three stories offer three approaches to the physical losses we all may face as we age. They are part of the painful losses in retirement. Each of must choose how to deal with them.
States of Being
The last category of losses, states of being, is about how we perceive what is happening and how we feel about our aging process.
For example, when a retired person (or any person) loses a spouse or life partner, along with the loss of that person come other potential losses: financial stability, self-determination, security, happiness, shared experiences, partnership, togetherness.
A friend of mine lost her husband in September 2016 after 61 years of marriage. She still lives in their home, but it is a big house on a big double lot and now she is alone. I’ve heard her say that she doesn’t know what to do with herself – having been married so long, depending on another person for most of her life, losing companionship, faced with maintenance of a large house and yard. She feels disconnected. There’s no one to talk to. She has lost her security as a spouse, her happiness as part of a couple, togetherness, partnership. The shared experiences she and her husband had are no longer shared. She is the only one left.
For another example, I’ll share the losses that have left me with a different state of being. All my life I’ve depended on my body to walk, bend, lift, reach, sit, stand, climb stairs, and so on. But now, when standing or walking, I become dizzy without warning at times. I can’t climb stairs without developing intense pain in my knees.
I can’t kneel or squat down to pick something up, or get down on the floor to do yoga or other exercises without experiencing severe knee pain. Then if I do get down on the floor, I’m unable to get back up without help. Getting out of a low chair or soft sofa is almost impossible without using something to lean on to propel myself up. My legs no longer work as they did for the first 65 years of living. I’ve lost confidence in my body.
Many women feel they are no longer attractive when they reach age 65 or more. Their hair may have changed color and texture. Their faces have developed wrinkles and lost the plump smoothness of the cheeks. Their neck skin has developed wattles like a turkey. Their upper arms no longer have defined muscles. Their waists have thickened. And on and on.
No longer feeling pretty is a loss. Looking in the mirror and seeing an old woman is a new state of being that many don’t want to accept. It’s disorienting.
Men react similarly. Muscle tone is lost. Facial skin sags along with neck skin. Spines may develop humps. Shoulders droop. Former athletes can no longer perform the skills of running, throwing, swimming, jumping, shooting, or skiing. Living in an old body is a new state of being. Familiar activities have to be abandoned or extensive accommodations made.
Some men and women lose interest in sexual activity and can no longer perform as they did earlier in life. This is a new state of being, and often a very unwelcome loss.
People who have suffered a stroke, who have a debilitating or progressive disease, must often use a wheelchair, walker, or scooter to move around. Loss of mobility can bring on feelings of irritability and resentment as we are forced to depend on others for help.
People who have suffered financial losses, for whatever reason, and people who never earned much money, may find themselves living on a tight budget in retirement. They have a hard time paying for their basic living expenses of food, shelter, medicine, clothing, and doctor bills. This is a new state of being – the feeling of being poor, not having enough, being deprived, being afraid of the future.
People who sell their single-family homes and move into assisted living, condominiums, apartments, or nursing homes experience extensive loss of control over their living situations, activities, surroundings, and freedom of movement. They learn that there are many rules they have to follow – often for the first time since high school or college! Living in a condo or apartment is like living in a dormitory, and very different from living in one’s own house.
Homeowners’ associations, landlord-tenant leases, and other legal documents severely limit what people can do. It’s uncomfortable and confining. The regimentation of a nursing home or assisted living facility may lead a person to feel trapped and sad.
Types of Coping Mechanisms
Well. If you’ve read this far, you probably have seen your own situations, or those of loved ones, depicted in the two preceding sections.
You’ve recognized that you’re going to experience losses. Maybe you already have.
So now let’s take a look at what you can do about it.
The most important principle of coping is a recognition that you have to take care of YOURSELF. No one else is going to do it for you. It’s up to you to find out what you need and take steps to get it. Others can help, but they can’t do the hard work of accepting change for you.
There are MANY coping mechanisms that can help you deal with the painful losses in retirement. You and I have probably tried some of them before. Feel free to use as many as you want to! There’s no limit on the ways that you can ask for help or help yourself!
One coping mechanism that helps me is to schedule a treat for myself every day. It might be as simple as saying, “Well, at 3:00PM I’m going to fix a nice cup of tea and sit on my balcony for a few minutes to listen to the birds.”
Here is a list of coping methods that can help you get through a loss:
Talk therapy, with a trained psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist
Self-help books, tapes, and CDs
Support groups filled with people like yourself experiencing what you’re experiencing
Writing – in a diary, journal, or blog – about what you’re going through
Volunteer work, where you reach out to help others and find that your activities also help yourself recover from losses
Yoga, exercise, walking – alone or in a class or group
Travel, domestic or international, provides a change of scene and a change of subject, leading you to forget your own troubles
Rituals and ceremonies that honor what you lost
Gathering mementos and keeping them in a box readily available to you but out of sight
Focusing on the good times and the best memories of your loved one or pet
Cooking, canning, preserving, or drying food
Listening to beautiful, uplifting music
Sewing, knitting, crocheting, working with wood or leather, beading
Drawing, painting, or coloring
Spending time with good people
Spending time outside in the sun each day
Going out for coffee or a meal
Going to a movie or concert. Many free ones can be found!
Visiting new places in your local area
Taking a warm bath or shower
Signing up for a class
Trying a new hobby
Painting the walls of your home or room in a light color
Taking stock of your goals. What do you want out of life?
Learning your limits
Making a plan for the next day, week, month, year, or longer
Finding a part-time job
Joining a book club, card club, biking group, etc. that meets regularly
Thinking about your daily schedule
Enjoying each new day with gratitude
Letting time go by
These coping methods will help you go through the stages of grief: shock, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The stages may last for months or years. There’s no fixed way of going through them. Each person handles grief differently. But knowing that there is a process togo through can help you survive it and heal.
Other coping methods are NOT good and should be avoided. These include
Drinking or eating too much
Using illegal drugs or prescription drugs to excess
Lashing out at others
Isolating yourself longer than a few days
Joining a cult that promises to solve your problems
Spending too much money
If you find yourself doing any of those seven things, then get some help. You don’t have to go through your grief alone. People will help you. You just have to ask.
How to handle painful losses in retirement
We’ve now seen the many losses that older people face in retirement. Sometimes it seems like the losses really pile on. I talked with a friend recently who told me of her cousin who had just lost his wife, and returned from the funeral to find his home on fire. It burned to the ground and he lost all his possessions. Shortly after, his dog was hit by a car and died. What a string of losses. The man turned to his friends and his married son for help in handling so much difficulty.
If we’re lucky, we will be able to face just one loss at a time. One of the women in my bridge club last year was turning 104. We asked her if there were anyone she’d like us to invite to a little birthday celebration. She answered, “Thanks, but no. Everyone I knew is dead.” She had recently attended the funeral of her only daughter.
In times when we feel really sad and overwhelmed, it’s helpful to cry. Everyone needs to cry now and then to release stress. Crying helps to let out bottled-up feelings. After a few moments, we feel better. We take some deep breaths, and go on with living.
A radio preacher I used to listen to would start each Sunday service by saying, “Thanks, Lord, for giving me another day of living. I woke up this morning clothed and in my right mind, for which I am grateful.”
Sometimes we have to focus on small things and being grateful for them: a beautiful sunrise, a hot cup of coffee, the purring of a cat in your lap, a bird singing near your window. This is the best way to cope with losses: taking one day at a time and living with an attitude of gratitude.
The list of coping mechanisms that I offered to you in the previous section is a good place to start when handling a loss. You CAN survive whatever happens to you. I know you can.
If this post has helped you with a loss, please let me know. I care!
Here’s what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment benefits when you’ve lost your job
I’m pretty disgusted with lawmakers who say they want to add more requirements for people to fulfill before they can get food stamps, Medicaid, or other social services benefits and/or federal assistance. It looks to me like they have absolutely no idea what it is like to be poor, unemployed, homeless, stranded, and/or hungry.
I wonder if any of them know what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment benefits when you’ve lost your job. Have they gone through the process? It’s daunting.
So I’m going to lay out two scenarios for readers, so you can walk in the footsteps of people (composites of people I know, no real names used) who need aid and need it NOW.
Then I’d appreciate hearing your comments as to whether you think it makes any sense to add more rules to an already-difficult situation for poor people and those who are disabled and/or down on their luck.
Do we need to add more requirements to what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment benefits in the U.S.?
A 35-year-old woman loses her job
Here’s what it takes to get assistance in Todd County, Minnesota – a rural agricultural area in the center of the state, 130 miles from Minneapolis. I know about this because I lived there for 13 years.
Let’s pretend you are a woman, age 35, unmarried, with three children under 10 (ages 3, 6, and 9) and no car. You live in a small apartment in Staples, Minnesota. You’ve been laid off from your cleaning job at a factory in Staples, Minnesota.
At the factory cleaning job, you earned $10.00 per hour for a 40-hour week (that’s $400 gross, minus deductions for social security – 12.4%, Medicare 2.9%, income tax withholding of $18, etc., so your net pay was about $320 per week, or $16,640 per year (about 33% of the MEDIAN income in the county). Your employer provided a basic healthcare policy for free.
Utilities are about $50 per month for heat and electricity with a low-income subsidy. You can’t afford a phone or cable TV.
So what you have left after rent, food, and utilities is $199 per month ($50 per week) for clothing, medicine, school supplies, day care, transportation, and everything else for four people. You have no bank accounts and pay your bills with money orders.
But now you have no job and no income. So what do you do? Your rent is due in 3 weeks.
You decide to apply for unemployment and for aid at the county. Your county seat, Long Prairie, is 29 miles from your home in Staples.
–You can apply in person or online. If you apply in person, come Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 4:30 PM, to the Todd County Courthouse in Long Prairie, Minnesota.
There is no public transportation system in Todd County. There is a subsidized occasional bus service called Rainbow Rider. The fare depends on the distance you travel. 0 – 5 miles, $2. 5.1 – 10 miles, $4. 10.1 – 20 miles, $6. $2 additional for every 10 miles thereafter. You must call and request a ride at least 6 hours in advance. If you call less than 6 hours before, $1 will be added to the fare. The buses run regular routes between the towns of Long Prairie and Browerville, and between Long Prairie and Grey Eagle. If you are going anywhere else, you have to request a ride.
You don’t live in Browerville, Grey Eagle, or Long Prairie. Your apartment is in Staples. The distance between Staples and Long Prairie is 29 miles, so the round trip will cost you $16.
—First, you decide to apply for unemployment.
To accomplish this, you learn that you can go online to www.uimn.org, to complete an application, or call a phone number for Greater Minnesota: 1-877-898-9090 to complete the application by phone. You don’t have a computer or a phone.
You’ll need your social security number, employer’s name and address, dates of work, type of work, and why you are no longer employed there. After you complete the application, if you are eligible, your weekly benefit will be about 50% of your average weekly wage, or about $200 in your case.
To receive benefit payments, you must make a request for a benefit payment every week – online or by phone. When you make your weekly request, you will be asked to report any income, if you are available to accept work, and if you are looking for work.
If you are deemed NOT eligible for unemployment, you may be eligible for $621 in cash assistance and $581 in food assistance, according to a social worker you talked to .
You call the phone number for the unemployment office, using a phone at the library, and complete the application for unemployment benefits.
—Second, you decide to apply for county aid.
To be considered for county aid, you learn that you must complete the ApplyMN application online or in person at the Courthouse in Long Prairie to apply for cash, food, child care, and emergency assistance.
You do not have a computer. To use one, you must go to the local library. The library in Staples is open MON 10:00 – 6:00. TUE 2:00 – 8:00. WED 10:00 – 6:00. THU 2:00 – 8:00. FRI 1:00 – 5:00. SAT 10:00 – 1:00. SUN Closed.
To see if you qualify for ApplyMn housing benefits, you must go to www.BridgetoBenefits.org/Home2. There you will find a short questionnaire to see if you qualify:
Check any items that describe your living situation:
–Someone in my family has a physical or developmental disability
–I am a grandparent, other relative or family friend raising someone else’s child(ren)
–I am under the age of 18 and living on my own
–I am a senior, 65 years or older.
Since you don’t fit any of those four criteria, then you don’t qualify for benefits through BridgetoBenefits.
Next, try to find out if you can get food stamps, now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP. Here are the requirements:
If you are an able-bodied adult without dependents (in other words, a single person 18-50), you can only get food benefits for 3 months in a 36-month period unless you meet at least one of the following requirements:
You work at least 20 hours per week (80 hours per month)
You participate in an approved employment program at least 80 hours per month
You are receiving cash assistance
You are certified unable to work
You live on Bois Forte, Fond Du Lac, Leech Lake, Lower Sioux, Mille Lacs, Red Lake or White Earth Reservations
You live in Cass, Clearwater, Kanabec, or Mille Lacs counties
You are pregnant
You are under age 18 or older than age 50
But you are an able-bodied adult with 3 dependents, so you may qualify for SNAP. You may have to meet an asset or income test.
SNAP in Minnesota provides a minimum monthly benefit of $16. The average benefit is $118.
If you meet certain other criteria listed below, you may be eligible for SNAP with no asset or income test:
Families in which at least 1 child in the household is eligible to receive Basic Sliding Fee Child Care and/or the Transition Year Child Care. The family must have applied and been found eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program but can still be on the waiting list.
Families participating in the Diversionary Work Program (DWP).
Families composed entirely of people who receive General Assistance (GA), Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in Minnesota.
If you want to apply for SNAP, you must complete the Combined Application Form (CAF) online or at your county social services office in person. It is 15 pages long, plus instructions. This application can also be used to apply for cash assistance (Minnesota Family Investment Program or Diversionary Work Program) or a health program.
You decide to go to Long Prairie to the Courthouse to fill out the applications and schedule your interview.
Next, you call the Rainbow Rider bus line from a phone at the library. You ask for a ride for tomorrow at 9 AM, from Staples to Long Prairie, returning later in the day. The ride will cost you $8 each way, using $16 of your $50 per week cash.
At the library, on one of the library’s public computers, you learn about what to do at the Todd County social services office.
Here are Todd County’s online instructions:
–You must come for a scheduled face-to-face interview if you are applying for cash assistance (MFIP and DWP) programs. Interviews for food and other cash programs can be conducted as scheduled interviews over the telephone. You must bring proof of your income, such as check stubs, and your expenses.
–For health care, go to mnsure.org to inquire. If you are 65 or over, certified disabled through Social Security, or are receiving Medicare, contact the county office for the appropriate application form. Your unemployment benefit amount will determine whether the children and yourself are eligible for Medical Assistance, MnCare, Unassisted Health, or QNP.
You make your journey to Long Prairie, to the Courthouse where the social services office is located. You waited until your two older children left for school, and then you asked a neighbor to watch your 3-year-old for the day.
Now , after an hour on the Rainbow Rider bus, you’ve arrived at the Courthouse in the county seat, Long Prairie. You go to the Social Services office. You have brought with you all the information required:
■ Identification showing your name and address
■ A Social Security number for all household members applying for benefits; if you or a member of your household has not applied for a Social Security number, you must apply at the same time you apply for benefits
■ Proof of your monthly earnings, such as recent pay stubs
■ Proof of your monthly unearned income, such as benefit statements
■ Proof of housing costs (needed before the agency can allow these costs as a deduction from your income)
■ Proof of immigration status for all household members applying for benefits
■ Medical bills of household members who are 60 years or older or have disabilities if these bills are not paid by insurance, Medical Assistance or Medicare (needed before the agency can allow these costs as a deduction from your income.The agency cannot decide if you will get benefits until you submit the entire application and required verifications.If you qualify for benefits, you will get them no later than 30 days from the date you submitted your application.
You wait for your turn and meet with a social worker at the county social services office to ask about food assistance, cash assistance, and work programs.
You decide to apply for the Child Care Program also. How does the Child Care Assistance Program work?
The Child Care Assistance Program can help pay child care costs for all children age 12 and younger, and for children ages 13 and 14 who have special needs. If your child is under the age of 15 and has special needs, talk to your county worker if your child care costs are higher due to your child’s special needs
Child care costs may be paid for the time you are working, looking for work, attending training or participating in activities included in your approved Minnesota Family Investment Program/Diversionary Work Program employment plan.
You must cooperate with child support for all children in families with an absent parent.
There is no time limit on how long you may receive child care assistance, as long as you meet the requirements and your income is within the program limits for your family size
Your child care must be provided by a legal provider who is at least 18 years old. For more information about selecting a provider, see the How do I choose a child care provider? section on page 3. It is important to know the rules of the Child Care Assistance Program and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Keep two important policies in mind:
Report changes in your household within 10 days from the time the change occurs. This is very important if you move to a new county and want to keep getting benefits and not have an overpayment. Changes can include the number of people living with you, your income, your address, your employment and your school schedule.
Pay the part of your child care costs that the Child Care Assistance Program does not pay. Your case might be closed if program rules are not followed.
Your social worker tells you that you will be eligible for $649 per month in SNAP benefits based on the “thrifty food plan” since you have no income and three children to feed, plus yourself.
The social worker asks you who the father of the children is, so that he can be located and ordered to pay child support.
–Third, you apply for housing assistance.
You may soon lose your apartment because you no longer have income to pay the rent. So you will need to apply for housing assistance. Here is how to do that:
The Todd County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) controls housing assistance for Todd County. It is located in Browerville, 21 miles from your home in Staples.
Here is what the HRA website says:
The housing choice voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.
The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.
Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies (PHAs). The PHAs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.
A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family’s choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family’s present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA.
A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. Under certain circumstances, if authorized by the PHA, a family may use its voucher to purchase a modest home
Applying for a Housing Program:the application, authorization form, and criminal release form need to be completed and submitted to a Browerville address.
For additional information about the voucher program, contact either the Todd County HRA serving your community or the Office of Public Housing within your local HUD office. There may be a long wait for assistance under the housing voucher program. If the PHA also administers the public housing program, applicants for the housing choice voucher program may also ask to be placed on the waiting list for the public housing program. HUD also administers other subsidized programs and you may obtain a list of programs in your area from the Office of Housing at your local HUD office at 1612-37-3135. http://www.co.todd.mn.us/organizations/hra/todd_county_hra#housing
Your social worker suggests that you complete the application for housing assistance. She can’t offer you any information about how long it will take before you receive approval or any assistance to pay your rent, because housing is a separate program not run by the county.
So when you reach the end of this month, you may become homeless unless you can make arrangements with the landlord to let you pay the rent late.
In case you do find an apartment through the voucher system, there are several sources of help to pay for utilities. HeatShare, Lifeline/Link-up, Stay Warm Minnesota, Weatherization Assistance Program. All of these programs require that an application form be completed.
Summing up your day at the county office:
At the end of your second day of trying to get aid, you have completed the following applications:
Combined Application Form (CAF)
HRA application form, authorization form, and criminal release form
Child Care Assistance Program
You have been told about the following waiting periods for benefits:
Unemployment benefits – three weeks
ApplyMN – one to three weeks
Combined Application Form (CAF) – immediately to one week
HRA housing voucher – there is a waiting list, unknown when you get a turn
Child Care Assistance Program – available as soon as you find a provider
You can’t apply for Medical Assistance until you find out what your unemployment benefit amount will be. So for the present, you and your children have no health insurance.
The social worker tells you that next Monday or Tuesday, you can go to the Staples Food Shelf and get food for three days, while you wait for your application for SNAP to be processed. Only one visit per month is allowed.
You ride home one hour on the Rainbow Rider bus, and make dinner for your family.
This is what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment, when you find yourself out of a job and in danger of losing your housing. You have filled out all your required applications, and will now wait one to three weeks for benefits. You may be homeless if not approved for HRA subsidized housing, or if approved but none is available.
Readers: did you know about all these requirements? Did you know what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment?
Let’s meet another person who needs help.
A 50-year-old man arrives in Minneapolis on the bus from Detroit.
You are a lifelong Detroit, Michigan resident, but have come to Minneapolis because you have some family here and they said there might be jobs at day labor places. You need to find out what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment, in case you can’t find a job right away.
Due to a plant closing, you got laid off from a warehouse job in Detroit in November of last year. You have been looking for work for 6 months, but didn’t find anything. Your Michigan unemployment benefits have run out and you’ve lost your apartment.
Your cousin meets you at the Greyhound Bus Station and takes you to his place in north Minneapolis in his car. You spend the night on his sofa.
The next day, you call AAA Labor (612-871-2505) and learn that there are lots of day jobs available immediately. Turns out, you have to apply in person at 1908 Chicago Ave between 5 AM and 5 PM, and bring your ID and Social Security number or birth certificate. Most of the jobs pay minimum wage, $9.50 per hour.
You ask your cousin how to get there and he tells you how to go there on the bus. You’ll walk to the intersection of West Broadway Ave and Penn Ave N, and take 19B Penn Ave/Olson Hwy bus to Penn Ave & 26th Ave N. Then transfer to 5E Chicago/Mall of America bus to Chicago Ave S & Franklin Ave E. Then walk north to 1908 Chicago Ave. This will cost $1.75.
When you get to the AAA Labor office, you fill out an application for work and are interviewed. You are approved for work and will start tomorrow at a warehouse job near where your cousin lives. You ride back to his place on the bus and tell his wife the good news.
After a couple of weeks of working in the warehouse 5 days per week, you get your first paycheck. It’s for $760 gross ($9.50 x 80 hours), and $530 net with taxes deducted, for the two weeks. You give your cousin $100 cash to help pay for the food you’ve been eating at their place all this time.
On Saturday, you start looking for an apartment. You can pay about $600-$700 per month, no more. All the ones you find in that price range are in St Paul. You are asked to pay a security deposit of one month’s rent, plus first and last months’ rent, which is a total of $1800 to $2100 cash, and sign a 12-month lease. But you don’t have any money except your first paycheck of $530, minus the $100 you paid your cousin for food, so you can’t get an apartment today.
Your cousin tells you that you could apply for emergency assistance to get help with the security deposit and two months’ rent at Hennepin County Human Services. Their hours are 8 to 4:30 M-F. You’re working during those hours. You ask your cousin’s wife to call them for you. She finds out that you have to apply in person for an interview.
You tell your boss at AAA Labor that you need to take a day off to apply for emergency rent assistance. He says that’s OK, but someone else will take your warehouse job. You’ll have to go to a new job when you come back to work.
So you take off the following Friday from work, and take the bus to the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis. At the Human Services office, you fill out the Combined Application Form (CAF) for county aid to see if you can qualify for some emergency cash assistance to help you pay the security deposits on an apartment, and to sign up for health insurance through MnCare.
You learn that you must be in Minnesota for 30 days before your application can be accepted. You’ve been here only 20 days. The social worker puts your application on hold, telling you to come back in 10 days, and you go back to your cousin’s place on the bus.
The next day, Saturday, you go back to AAA Labor and ask for another work assignment. This time you’re sent to the Minneapolis Convention Center to help set up for a major trade show. You spend the first day there unloading trucks filled with equipment and putting up the walls of display booths for the companies that will show their goods during the convention.
That night, your cousin and his wife tell you that they need some privacy and ask if you can find another place to stay. You’ve been with them nearly four weeks, sleeping on their sofa.
Now you’re going to have to find somehwere else to go. Your cousin tells you to take the bus to Franklin Ave and Chicago Ave in Minneapolis, and walk three blocks to the Catholic Charities Opportunity Center.
A guy at work told you that you could go to an agency called Sharing and Caring Hands. You can meet with someone who could help you find a place in an emergency shelter. You have to go there Monday – Thursday from 10 – 11:30 AM to be screened for a voucher for homeless men.
On Monday, you pack your things and thank you cousin for his help. Then you get on the bus for AAA Labor. There you tell your boss that you have to find another place to stay, and won’t be able to work today. He tells you to come back as soon as you can, because you’re a good worker.
You walk a few blocks to the Catholic Charities Opportunity Center and get in line for screening for housing, meals, and medical screening.
Now you know some of what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment, housing, and day work
Our 35-year-old woman with three children and single man, both out of work, had to jump through all kinds of hoops to get any help whatsoever. One was in rural Minnesota and one in urban Minneapolis. Both did everything that was asked of them, but after applying for help, they were left with waiting periods without food or confirmed housing.
What do you think? Do we need more requirements laid on people before they can get aid?
Let me know what you think in your comments.
My thanks to those in the social services and charitable work forces who provided information for this blog post.
Each person is different. Each of us can chart our own path through the retirement years. I retired early, at age 58. I’ve been retired for 13 years. Your retirement date may be similar or different.
It used to be, back in the mid-20th century when retirement became a thing, that many people did not live to age 65, so they never experienced retirement. Others might make it to 65, and then die within a couple of years. But things are different now!
You may have way more retirement years than you expect!
For women, life expectancy after age 65 in America is now 15 to 21 years, meaning that women will live to age 80-86! For men, it’s 18+ years, living to age 83 or longer. This means you may have a LOT of years to fill with activities once you stop full-time employment, and a lot of years to pay for your living expenses out of your savings, pensions, investments, and/or paid work.
In this post, I’m going to tell you my story: thirteen years after retirement, here’s what I’m doing. And how I’ve managed financially.
I’ll add some information on what friends and acquaintances are doing. Their stories are different.
Thirteen years after retirement, here’s what I’m doing
When I retired from university teaching at the end of 2004, I had no intention of ending my work life. After spending 40 to 60 hours per week at a job, I could not imagine filling all those hours with hobbies or television. I knew I would want to work. Also, I needed to supplement my post-retirement income. So I created a job for myself: freelance writing and environmental work.
I became a newspaper reporter for four local weekly newspapers in the rural area where I lived. This part-time freelance writing job lasted from 2004 to 2016. Some years I worked for four papers, some years for two or three, and at the end of the 12 years, I worked for just one paper. This job ended when I moved away from the rural area.
My second part-time job actually started before I retired. I worked as a consultant for a large metropolitan county district court system, evaluating the communication skills of judges. This work lasted until 2011.
My third part-time job began in 2006. I applied to be appointed to a county planning commission, and was accepted. For this job, I attended monthly public hearings lasting from one to four hours, and made site visits with the county planning director two to three times a year for a half day. This job ended in 2016 when I moved out of the county.
I added a fourth part-time job in 2007: commercial building energy auditor. In this freelance job, I work with other retired people to assess commercial buildings for their energy usage, solid waste production, and water consumption. Then I write reports for the building owners, describing my findings and making recommendations. I’m still working at this job.
At the height of my freelance work in the post-retirement years, I was earning about $15,000 per year in wages.
My social security payments were about $14,400. I received $200 from a teaching pension, and withdrew about $1,000 per month from my 403b retirement account.
Three of my friends took different paths that did not include working at a job after retirement. One worked all the way to age 67, and now fills her days with activities like golf and attending her grandchildren’s sports events. She receives a monthly pension of about $3,000, and her husband receives about $6,000 per month. Their home is paid for, but they buy two new cars every few years.
Another friend who is divorced worked to age 62. She fills her days with Bible studies, reading, babysitting her grandchildren, knitting, and caring for a sick friend. She retired with a 401K worth over $1,000,000. Her home and car are paid off.
A third friend retired at age 55 and spends her days watching TV. Now 74, she struggles with social isolation and depression. She has no hobbies and lives several hours away from her closest relatives. She and her husband receive different amounts of Social Security benefits that together total about $2,400 per month. He works part-time to supplement their income. They have a mortgage and make payments on a pickup truck.
In addition to my three part-time jobs during the period 2004-2016, I volunteered at various nonprofit organizations. My volunteer work included working a monthly shift at a local food shelf, contributing to local fundraising causes, speaking at historical society events, and traveling to annual in-state and out-of-state archaeology projects to take part in supervised excavating and surveying of archaeological sites.
Since the election of 2016, I’ve been volunteering for the ACLU and working a weekly shift in the kitchen of a homeless day center.
My three friends vary in their time devoted to volunteering. One mentors heart patients and attends fundraising luncheons, one helps with church functions, and the third does not do any volunteer work.
During my first 13 years of retirement, I’ve gone on six international tours: Croatia and Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania, Poland and Czech Republic, Northwestern Russia, Spain, and Turkey. I’ve also spent six two-week vacations in southern Mexico.
I wish I could travel more, but finances don’t permit it.
Of my three friends compared in this post, one has taken several international tours and domestic trips, another spends the winters in the South, and the third has been on one Caribbean cruise and several brief car trips.
During my 13 years of retirement, I’ve traveled to four family weddings and one funeral. I’ve also made a half-dozen trips to visit my brother in Colorado and my sister in Tennessee. I’ve visited several national parks, Washington DC, wildlife refuges and conservation centers, zoos, arboretums, and museums. For a decade, I owned a mobile home in a senior citizen park in Arizona, and traveled there annually during the winter to visit and get warm.
I also devoted time to my hobbies — things I wished I’d had more time to do during my full-time working career. Since retiring from full-time work, I’ve read a lot, hiked and camped, collected rocks, done woodworking, spun fibers into yarn, knitted, visited historic sites, sewed, taken photographs, done beadwork, made jewelry, taken part in fur trade rendezvous, and attended American Indian powwows. I bought some guns, learned to shoot, and tried deer hunting and target shooting. I continued my activity of tapping maple trees for sap in the spring to make maple syrup, and I split wood for my wood stove, learned beginning Spanish, and learned to understand local American Indian spiritual traditions.
I’ve enjoyed a rich variety of activities during my first 13 years after retirement!
Of my three friends, one plays golf and is an avid gardener, one reads and knits, and the third reads and watches TV.
Grandchildren — they are what is missing. I was not fortunate enough to have grandchildren arrive in my life. I know that many retirees, and most of my relatives who are retired, spend loads of happy hours and days with their grandchildren. I applaud them for their good fortune!
My three friends have grandchildren that live in the same state, and spend time with the kids either weekly or as often as possible.
After enjoying my rural dream house for 13 years, I moved to the city
Like many others, I dreamed of living in a house that was perfect for me after I retired. I was lucky enough to be able to design and build a home that included many of the hoped-for qualities of my dream house.
My house was large – 2560 sq ft, plus a 1500 sq ft garage and wood shop. It was located in a wooded rural area 14 miles from the nearest town. I had six wooded acres of my own, plus miles of country roads to explore along with state parks and recreation areas. I had privacy, quiet, and contact with nature that included deer, bear, birds, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, and foxes. I was free to do as I pleased (within reason and budget) and enjoy each day.
But I realized after a health issue that my years of splitting wood and operating a wood stove for heat, shoveling snow, performing yard maintenance, and living alone far from medical care should come to an end. I began the process of selling my home so I could move to a smaller place without maintenance responsibilities.
It took 6 years, but I finally sold my home in August 2016. After living in a temporary situation for four months, I moved into my condo in a metro area suburb in December 2016.
Of my three friends, two live in the houses they have owned for years, and one has moved to a smaller house.
After facing a health issue, I began to live each day like it was the only one
In February 2011, I had a heart attack while walking my dog on a 20- degrees-below-zero morning. I did not recognize my condition as a heart attack. I thought it was pneumonia.
So I took the dog home, packed an overnight bag, and drove to the closest hospital, 16 miles away. When I arrived, the emergency room staff quickly determined that I did not have pneumonia, but was having a heart attack. They loaded me into an ambulance and transported me to a heart center 80 miles away. The next morning, I had an angioplasty and a stent placement. Two days later, I was home again.
My family is one that has a history of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity going back 140 years (that’s as far as we can trace). All of us take cholesterol medication, and some of us try to eat right and get plenty of exercise, but those precautions aren’t enough to overcome heredity, said my cardiologist.
My event was a warning. It told me that someday soon, my time would be up. Worst of all, there’s nothing I can do about it.
So I decided that I would enjoy each day, do what I liked to do, and try to have no regrets when time was up.
I’ve been fortunate that my health has been relatively good up to now. I have osteoarthritis and herniated disks in my spine that make walking difficult and climbing stairs painful and kneeling almost impossible, but these are not life-threatening conditions. I have not had to battle cancer, diabetes, or other serious diseases.
The actuarial tables used by life insurance companies indicate that my life expectancy at birth was 72.6 years. Upon reaching age 65, my revised life expectancy was 15.6 more years. So I figure I will have between 1 and 9 more years on earth. I want to make those years as good as possible.
Of my three friends, one has faced serious physical and mental health issues for 30 years; one has developed diabetes, arthritis, and depression; and the third has struggled with obesity, depression, and multiple joint replacement surgeries. Growing old is no bed or roses!
Thirteen years after retirement, what will be your situation?
Are you planning for a long retirement?
Maybe you had not thought much about life after retirement until now, reading about my experiences and those of my friends.
It’s never too late. Today is the first day of the rest of your life!
How will you spend each day? Do you have meaningful work, volunteer opportunities, hobbies, travel plans, grandchildren?
Do you have health concerns?
What kind of housing are you in now? Do you need to plan for a change?
These are the issues I and my friends have been dealing with during our years of retirement. I hope you will take the time to start or continue to plan for your retirement, whether it’s coming soon, has already taken place, or will happen in the not-too-distant future.
It’s been nearly three months since Donald Trump was sworn in as our 45th President. Since then, we have seen his and the Republican Congress’s unprecedented attacks on science, energy efficiency standards, women’s rights, education, America’s standing in the world, immigrants, refugees, health insurance coverage, NATO, the EU, international trade agreements, and on and on.
To many people, the TV and radio news each morning is so depressing that they turn it off, or sit spellbound while news anchors and reporters describe yet another day’s worth of disastrous executive orders, Tweets, speeches, and bills passed by the Republican Congress.
To think that we have three and three-quarter years of this left is daunting.
Yet, we must not give up. We must resist the Trump agenda.
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
No one person can stop Trump and the Republican Congress. But working together, many thousands of people can stop SOME of the destruction. We can resist the Trump agenda in bits and pieces all over the country.
We’ve seen this already in the defeat of Trump’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s bill to replace Obamacare was withdrawn before it could be brought to a vote in the House of Representatives. This happened for two reasons: (1) a group of ultra-conservative Republican Congressmen refused to support it, and (2) ordinary Americans made over 500,000 phone calls to their 535 Congressmen and Senators expressing their opposition to the bill.
We also saw our strength when Trump’s bans on Muslims and refugees were overturned by federal courts after actions from state attorneys general and independent groups like the ACLU and Sierra Club.
These independent groups and others like them are in court trying to stop Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, privatize public lands, repeal the Endangered Species Act, overturn women’s reproductive rights, cancel clean air standards, restart oil pipelines stopped by the Obama Administration, and many other harmful actions.
So you see, we aren’t powerless. We can resist the Trump agenda.
But it takes persistence, time, and money.
Right now, I’m volunteering for the ACLU People Power group, getting ready to join a group that cooks meals for homeless people, and marching for Planned Parenthood.
In this post, I will give you some examples of resistance movements of the recent past. These will give you hope!
I’ll also suggest some actions to take and some reading that you can do on your own to help you learn the tactics of resistance that you can use to resist the Trump agenda: to fight against specific Trump and Congressional actions that you just refuse to accept.
So here we go.
Resistance movements of the recent past
Definition:A resistance movement is “an organized effort by some portion of the civil population of a country to resist the legally established government or an occupying power and to disrupt civil order and stability.”–Wikipedia
The resistance movements that most easily come to mind for Americans are the Civil Rights movement and anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the American Indian Movement of the 1970s, the Gay Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, and the current Black Lives Matter movement. These resistance movements are examples of people fighting the actions (or inaction) of a legally established government in order to achieve the movement’s goals.
World War II was the impetus for many resistance movements in countries occupied by Nazi Germany and the USSR: Norway, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Denmark, Netherlands, and Italy. These resistance movements were examples of people fighting against an occupying power.
In the Middle East, resistance movements include the PLO, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
In Southeast Asia, the Viet Cong, Viet Minh, and Pathet Lao started out as legitimate resistance movements, but later used extreme violence in their efforts to achieve their goals.
In Ireland, the Irish Republican Army fought against British occupation. In Nicaragua, the CONTRAs fought against a dictatorship. In Cuba, Fidel Castro fought against a dictatorship. In Czarist Russia, the Bolsheviks fought against a monarchy that operated as a dictatorship. In Mexico, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata fought against dictatorship and led a revolution.
Nelson Mandela fought South African apartheid.
As you think about all these examples of resistance movements, you’ll note that many – but not all – succeeded in overthrowing the established order. However, sometimes the new order was even worse than the previous one (e.g., USSR, Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam).
In all the resistance movements mentioned here, people expressed their disagreement through protests and demonstrations. These actions were undertaken to bear witness on behalf of a particular cause by words or actions. They were attempts to influence public opinion or government policy or both. Often they were attempts to get desired changes directly, either through nonviolence or through violent means.
In World War II, partisan groups blew up railroads and sabotaged German and Russian troop transports when possible. I’m not advocating violence as a means to get Trump’s attention and wake up the Republican Congress. But there are many PEACEFUL, NONVIOLENT MEANS that we can use:
Actions you can take to resist the Trump agenda
Sign up for one or more of the daily or weekly online Resistance newsletters: Rogan’s List, Jen Hoffman’s,
Make phone calls to your Congresspeople. Call both their Washington offices and their local offices. Phone calls are proving to be exceptionally influential in the current Resistance.
Sign petitions and send postcards to your Congresspeople and your local and state governments, when local issues are under attack by Republicans.
March for Science on Earth Day, April 22, and for Climate Change on April 29. March for other reasons as the marches are organized.
Join a local group that is helping refugees to resettle.
Join a local group that cooks and serves meals to homeless people.
Volunteer in a local school to read to children, especially refugee and immigrant children who need to hear English to help their learning.
Further reading and viewing
Here are some fiction and nonfiction books that I rely on to give me the energy to resist the Trump agenda, and a few movies that will motivate you. Each person can do something great!
Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader
Black Like Me by John H Griffin
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown Night Soldiers and others in the Alan Furst series
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
The Second Sex by Simone Beauvoir Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape by Susan Brownmiller
The Imitation Game
Letters from Iwo Jima
I hope you will pick a few of these ideas for ways to resist the Trump agenda and take action. It feels good to do something, even if you can’t immediately see the results.
Remember the words of Dr King in his last speech: “I may not get there with you…. But I have been to the mountaintop….”
Remember that Congress is there to serve us, the citizens. Don’t let the members get away with ignoring us.
Remember that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the election of 2016. That means that WE are the majority. Let’s act like it!
Remember to take time for yourself and take a break for volunteering and activism at least once a day. You need to fill your cup so that you will have enough energy and spirit to share with others who need your help.
Personal names are something that we are pretty much stuck with. Our parents chose them. We are legally identified by them. They follow us everywhere.
In the part of America where I grew up, babies were given a first name, a middle name, and the last name of their father, if the parents were married. Mine were. Often the first name for a girl would be chosen from one of her grandmothers’ names. Often the first name for a boy would be the father’s name, making the boy baby a “junior” or “the Third”, etc., with that name.
My first name was chosen to honor my mother’s best friend. In all my life, I only met one other person who had the same name as I did.
How my name became a problem for me
When I started school, the nightmare began. No one had ever heard of my name. (Before you ask about my name – please don’t.)
In many schools, children’s names are printed on paper or card stock by teachers and taped to the children’s desks. In some schools, children must wear nametags or signs draped around their necks with their names printed on them. Children’s school work is identified by their names written at the top or bottom of each page. Children are called on in class by name to answer questions or carry out teachers’ instructions.
In every single school, in every single class, I had to explain my name to one or more people. I soon wished I had some other name – a “normal” name that no one would focus on. I would think to myself: “Before you ask about my name – please don’t.” I hated introducing myself. Children and adults alike made fun of my name.
In the 1950s, there was a popular television show about a hero dog, called “Rin-Tin-Tin.” This was the most common response to my introducing myself. Each person thought he or she was the only one who saw the connection. Ha ha. Very funny.
The “name nightmare” continues
As adults, our names appear on our driver’s licenses, state or provincial identification cards, tax bills, credit cards and loan papers, voting records, mail boxes, and on and on – hundreds or even thousands of documents and forms.
Whenever we try to carry out some intention, the first thing we are asked for is our name. When you apply for a job, volunteer for an organization, ask for an appointment with a doctor, sign up for a class, or even sit down to play cards with people, you are asked for your name.
And that is when the nightmare returns, for me and many others like me who have unusual names or names perceived as “foreign”.
My name is frequently spelled wrong. I have to spell it our, letter by letter, in any official situation where there is oral communication.
Me: Laurinda Porter
Me: No. L-A-U-R-I-N-D-A.
Official: Oh, I never heard of that. Where did you get that?
When I am asked for my name in an informal situation, I reply, “My name is Rin, R-I-N.” I think to myself: Before you ask about my name — please don’t.
Inevitably, I receive the following responses: “Oh, like Rin-Tin-Tin. Ha ha.” “What’s that short for?” “What’s your REAL name?” “Where did you get that name?” “Spell that again?” “Is that a nickname?”
My internal thoughts: “Really? Do you think you’re the first person who ever thought of that? Why do I have to explain my name? Why is it any of your business? Can’t you just accept it?”
It has reached the point in recent years where I avoid new situations because I don’t want to have to deal with it. I am 70 years old. I have been asked these stupid questions since I went to kindergarten 65 years ago. I’m really sick of them.
When people persist, I just go silent, or I say, “Please, just accept it. It’s my name.”
When I go to Starbuck’s for coffee or to a restaurant where you have to give your name to be put on a list for a table, I give my name as Ann. It’s simple, clear, and not unusual. No one asks me to spell it. No one asks me what it’s short for. No one makes dumb jokes about it. I breathe a sigh of relief and wait for my turn to come up.
How I deal with other people’s names
I NEVER ask anyone about his or her name. I just make sure I am pronouncing it right and move on. I assume that someone with an unusual name has experienced the same kinds of stupid questions and dumb remarks from other people that I have.
Why don’t people think before they speak? I don’t know. At my bridge group (which numbers over 50 people), I have to play cards with people I haven’t met almost every week. All of us are senior citizens. All of us have lived a long time and experienced stupidity and rudeness from many sources. Yet, every one of them asks me the same questions every time I introduce myself.
Pretty soon I’m going to become Ann just to get through the afternoons at bridge.
Why it makes me mad to be asked constantly about my name
Why do I become so irritated about it? Because it goes on and on. It’s not just one person doing it. It’s the 65 years, day after day, person after person, singling me out as different, as “other”, as abnormal, that ticks me off.
Every day for 23 years of school, college, and graduate study. Every day as an adult.
Before you ask about my name — please don’t.
I don’t like having to explain myself in every new interaction. Why should I have to do this? Why can’t I be accepted without an explanation?
So please. Take my advice. When you meet someone, don’t make ANY remarks about his or her name. Just say, “It’s nice to meet you.”
You will make someone’s day. You will make MY day.
The Women’s March in the U.S. and around the world on Jan. 21, 2017, gave me hope! A great amount of hope! Hope like I haven’t felt since the election of 2008 when Barack Obama was chosen to be our President.
I was excited to see so many people participate in the Women’s March. I was excited to see women of all ages, and a goodly portion of men of all ages too. There were children, dogs, banners, signs, pink knitted hats, chants, drums, and singing at the Women’s March in St Paul, Minnesota, where I marched.
Over 100,000 people joined in. What a sight it was.
Around the world, journalists estimated that a total of 5 million people marched to support their beliefs in equality, women’s rights, climate change, civil rights, free speech, science, social justice, immigrant safety, the value of our environment, animal rights, LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom, universal health insurance, and many other causes.
Why did we march?
I believe it was because the election and inauguration of Donald Trump as President were frightening events to many women and men, and especially frightening to people of color. Trump has promised to roll back all the progress made by the Obama Administration in the beliefs I listed above.
And In the first week of his presidency, Trump has outpaced our fears. He has done more evil things than even the most pessimistic of us thought possible.
–He threatened to defind Planned Parenthood. Republicans in Congress introduced more than 100 bills to defund PP and/or restrict abortion rights and/or restrict insurance payments for women’s health costs.
–He made it illegal to provide financial support to agencies around the world who provide healthcare to poor women, if the agencies even mention the word “abortion”. The doctors and nurses can’t counsel women about their options or provide abortion procedures or the agencies will lost their funding. Reagan instituted this ban. Clinton removed it. Bush put it back. Obama removed it again. When the ban is in place, thousands of women die.
–He threatened immigrants to the U.S., both legal and illegal, and declared sanctuary cities would lose their federal funding.
–He insulted our close ally, Mexico.
–He attacked science. He gave an order instructing the EPA and NPS agencies of the federal government to stop tweeting and publishing scientific papers and reports.
Who could have foreseen that? Not me! It’s unimaginable.
Responses by scientific agencies
But our public servants in the science-based federal agencies did not acquiesce to this outrageous executive order. Instead, they started new Twitter accounts that they or their colleagues or allies controlled, so that they could continue to share science with the public.
They planned a Science March on Washington to protest Trump’s actions. As of this writing, no date has been announced for the March. But around the world, scientists in other countries stated their intentions to march in solidarity with the American scientists.
Here are some of the new Twitter accounts:
The anonymous writers of some of the new Twitter accounts asked for artists to design new logos for them. We’ll probably see the new logos in the coming days.
Responses by women’s groups and environmental groups
Women’s groups and environmental groups have responded to Trump’s and Congress’s actions with vigorous campaigns of phone calls, letter writing, petition signing, and visiting Congressional offices to express their opposition to Trump’s threats and orders.
Senators and Representatives need to hear our voices. We women are the majority In the U.S., and we need to stand up and act like it.
In addition to women’s groups and environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Greenpeace, and Center for Biological Diversity, some churches have announced plans to help resist efforts to roll back environmental protections. Clean water and clear air are needed by everyone, not just women and environmentalists!
We all want to keep our national parks and national forests and national monuments. We can’t let corporate greed be allowed to destroy these public lands through oil drilling, clearcutting of forests, oil spills from pipelines, forest fires caused by epic drought resulting from climate change, ocean levels rising, and other means.
This is the time to stand up and say “No” to Trump and the Republican Congress.
Trump’s first orders and proclamations
Here is a list of the orders and proclamations Trump has made in his first week in office:
–Signed an order to build a wall along the southern border of the U.S.
–Ordered a shutdown in Twitter activity at the Department of Interior, EPA, …
–Ordered the Affordable Care Act “burdens” to be eased.
–Cleared the way for the resumption of construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines through five executive actions
–Imposed a hiring freeze on federal employees for 90 days, with exceptions for military positions and national security.
–Withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership
–Ordered the government to withhold funds from sanctuary cities
–Asked for the resignation of the head of the U.S. Border Patrol
–Asked for the resignations of all senior staff in the State Department
–Reinstated Reagan’s anti-abortion Mexico City rule known as the global gag rule.
–Froze all pending regulations until they are approved by his administration
–Ordered the pursuit of undocumented immigrants by the director of homeland security
For those who want to resist Trump’s attempts to take away our freedoms and destroy our country’s environment by selling it to corporate interests, the marches are an encouraging sign. They showed that thousands of people are not willing to let him do it.
But marching is just the first step. After we march, we must take action.
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
Here is a list of some of the actions you can take:
–Write letters and postcards
–Make phone calls
–Discuss the issues with your friends and neighbors
–Join additional marches when they happen
–Go to local meetings of environmental groups, women’s groups, and civil rights organizations like the ACLU
–Contact your Congressional representatives and local legislators and express your opinion and your outrage at Trump’s actions.
–Contact the organizations you care about that support women’s rights, LGBTQ issues, civil rights, immigration, free speech, science, social justice, and other principles that are under attack by the Trump Administration. Send them money. Volunteer for them.
Most of all, stay strong!
This fight is going to last a long time. It won’t be over by summer, or by Labor Day, or even by the beginning of 2018. The Congress and the Trump Administration have vowed to wreck President Obama’s legacy, and they are taking steps to do that.
What they are doing affects us all. We can’t let them get away with it. Women are 54% of the citizens of this country. Science is important. Social justice is vital. Our public lands — especially our National Parks — are part of the heritage of this country.
I hope you will be part of the fight. Let me know what you are doing to save the principles we care about.
At the end of this week, our nation begins a new chapter. The inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States is something no one ever dreamed would happen.
It is unimaginable. But it is happening.
I have been thinking about the momentous changes that could and probably will occur as a result of Trump becoming President and Republicans taking over Congress.
I admit I have done a lot of hand-wringing and worrying in the two months since the November election. But now I’m able to take a deep breath and tamp down my emotions and ramp up my cognitive skills.
It occurred to me that this is not the first time that we have faced an incoming presidential administration that is vastly different from the one before.
During my lifetime, beginning in 1946, this has happened repeatedly. It appears to be a pattern. Why, I don’t know.
Since WW II, there has been relative global peace. Yes, there have been regional wars on every continent except ours. We have sent troops, advisors, educators, military police, and other types of aid to many of these regional wars. We’ve even started a couple of them. I acknowledge that. There has not been TOTAL world peace, but there has been RELATIVE world peace, compared to WW II.
Many in our nation have prospered beyond their wildest dreams during these 70 years. Others, not so much.
Technology has become more and more a part of our lives, from the invention of the portable phone, satellite phone, and cell phone, to the garage door opener, self-parking car, heart-lung machine, high-definition television, silent dishwasher, wearable fitness bands, internet, and on and on.
Social change has come for many — slowly, yes, but it has come.
In those same 70 years since the end of WW II, we have experienced a yin and yang in presidential administrations.
So what does “yin and yang” mean?
Let’s think about yin and yang in presidential administrations. In our country, we have just two large political parties: Democrats and Republicans. Their occupation of the presidency has alternated regularly since WW II.
Just take a look:
–Harry Truman (Democrat) served from the time of Roosevelt’s death in 1945, to Jan. 1953.
After Truman, we had Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower (Republican) served from 1953 to Jan. 1961.
After Eisenhower, we had John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Kennedy (Democrat) served 1000 days, from Jan. 1961 until he was assassinated in Nov. 1963, and Johnson (Democrats) served from Nov. 1963 to Jan. 1969.
After Kennedy and Johnson, we had Nixon. Richard M. Nixon (Republican) served from Jan. 1969 to Aug. 1974, when he resigned in disgrace.
Then Gerald R. Ford, Nixon’s second Vice President, was sworn in as President and served until Jan. 1977.
After Nixon and Ford , we had Jimmy Carter. Carter (Democrat) served from Jan. 1977 to Jan. 1981.
After Carter, we had Reagan. Ronald Reagan (Republican), served from Jan. 1981 to Jan. 1989.
George Herbert Walker Bush (Republican, referred to as Bush 41)- the only President that breaks my pattern — was elected right after Reagan and served one term, from Jan.1989 to Jan. 1993.
After Bush 41, we had Clinton. William Jefferson Clinton (Democrat) served from Jan. 1993 to Jan. 2001.
After Clinton, we had Bush 43. George W. Bush (Bush 43, Republican) served from Jan. 2001 to Jan. 2009.
After Bush 43, we had Obama. Barrack Obama (Democrat), served from Jan. 2009 to Jan. 2017.
And now, after Obama, we will have Trump, a Republican in name only.
Donald J. Trump, a Republican since 2012, has switched parties at least five times over the last 30 years, according to U.S. News.
Thus, there has been a back and forth between Republicans and Democrats throughout my 70 years.
So, for some reason, we have continued to alternate from one party to the other. Since 1972, each Democratic President reduces the national debt and puts in place revenue streams that would balance the budget eventually. Then each Republican cuts taxes and makes the debt balloon once again, through what Bush 41 called “voodoo economics.”
Not only foreign policy and economic policy are affected by the yin and yang of presidential administrations.
Domestic policy is also strongly affected by the back-and-forth swings. Civil rights, women’s rights, social justice, environmental issues, and many other causes advance and retreat as the administrations change.
One aberration in this trend is the second Nixon administration, the one starting in 1972, which saw Roe v. Wade decided, and the Environmental Protection Agency established.
Under Obama, great strides in social justice, environmental justice, and use of alternative energy sources have been made, but a lot more need to be made.
However, the incoming Republican administration opposes all the ideals that I hold dear: social justice, women’s rights, minority rights, marriage equality, preservation of the environment, alternative energy, saving endangered species, climate change, national parks – you name it.
To Everything There is a Season
Which us brings us back to the Bible quote that I used for the title of this post: “To everything there is a season.”
This comes from the book of Ecclesiastes, the 21st book of the Old Testament, RSV, Chapter 3, placed right after Psalms and Proverbs in the Protestant version of the Bible.
To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, an a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
So maybe the coming four years are that yang of the yin and yang: our time to break down, weep, mourn, cast away stones, refrain from embracing, lose, rend, speak, hate, and make war.
We can oppose what the Congress tries to do, by civil disobedience, protests, petitions, marches, speeches, demonstrations, and resistance. We can try to stop the worst of it, and work hard to stem the tide of reactionary backward movement for the next four years, until the time comes to elect a new President more in tune with the 52% of the electorate that voted for HRC.
It’s important that we try to be good citizens of our nation, and that means obeying the laws, building rapport where we can, and working for the principles we believe in.
To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven. Even Donald Trump.