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Last week, I hit another year’s marker on my way may through the decade as an octogenarian. 

Part of me is still ready for any venture that comes in my path. But part of me just wants to be left to retire in peace.

The end of graduate school in the 1950s brought me face to face with America’s struggle to secure civil and voting rights for all her citizens. Then came the persistent call for me to do what I could to help bring an end to the war against Vietnam. That summons consumed me for the next decades, and took me to the legal boundaries – and even beyond. I have often related stories of my involvement at the heart of that struggle, including a frightening encounter with a Chicago grand jury. Women’s rights, economic justice and climate change have been among my foci in more recent years. And now we are faced with a disastrous national administration headed by an ignorant, prevaricating egomaniac.

Closer to home, I am now involved in my retirement community’s efforts to continue our hundred-year emphasis on providing a home for those who have spent their working years in religious or charitable nonprofit agencies, particularly persons with limited financial resources.

All of these concerns have involved struggles which are both vigorous and tiring. Many of my neighbors – among our 300 community members – simply want a quiet, peaceful retirement without conflict. And that is also what part of me longs for. 

To escape my focus on the above named struggles, I’ve been watercolor painting. Every year, I produce a few new paintings from which I make and sell hundreds of greeting cards. The money earned is dedicated to a fund offering support for members of our community who are short of financial resources.

These days, everything takes more time. Buttoning a shirt can be a 20-minute exercise. I work more slowly, and now I spend 26 – 30 hours a week producing these 700 word efforts. By the time I choose and research the topic, draft and rewrite, work with my proofreader, rewrite some more, send them to the places where they are published, and write back to thoughtful responders, the week is gone. Alas, my art has suffered, and I have not made a single brush stroke for months; I long to get back to my watercolors.

I began to submit these columns eight years ago, and I have yet to miss a weekly deadline. When these opinion pieces of mine are no longer of value, or when my mind has skidded to a halt, I have good friends who will tell me that it is time to quit. But that day has not yet arrived.

Perhaps it is delusional on my part, but I believe these political comments need to be made. We should not hold our peace and let Donald Trump do whatever massages his ego. I still believe that the distortions inherent in his understanding of America are tragically misguided.

I may not be around to observe what might happen as he continues to devalue and distort the American dream, but my grandchildren will live with the effects. So for their sake – and perhaps for yours – I am driven to continue with this effort a bit longer.

Charles Bayer

Charles Bayer is a somewhat retired theological professor and congregational pastor. 

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