Elders: Aware and Opinionated!


© Kuzma/iStockphoto

by Donna Sinclair

Like all elders, I have experienced a lot of life. There is no way around this. That means I have opinions based on having bumped into a horde of circumstances and people. Strong opinions. Which I usually express.

But sometimes a note of caution intervenes, especially since I live in a small city where I can be heard. Nobody likes to hear the same voice (mine) pontificating on a variety of topics (endless) in the same tone (outrage). So sometimes I just hide in my house and make soup.

This week, though, I received an email from my friend Suzanne. She had responded to a national online appeal to host gatherings in front of constituency offices in protest against Bill C-10, the Omnibus Crime Bill. Could I let my contacts know? Would I want to speak?

Yes, I answered, and no. No more speaking. In the last month I had already held forth twice on the Keystone XL pipeline (and hence expansion of operations in the Alberta tar sands) the erosion of care for the common good in Canada (public readings from my new book) and the need for strong faithful public witness (a sermon; well, okay, that one was out of town.)

“Your voice,” whined my small internal cautionary figure, “is seriously over-used and overheard.”

But I really wanted to help Suzanne. And I really feel that the bill in question is a terribly backward step for our justice system. It will incarcerate more people – many of them vulnerable – in worse conditions, putting them in touch with skilled offenders and thus turning prisons into a kind of university for crime.

I could go on.

So I responded willingly, bumbled my way awkwardly through a Facebook appeal for supporters, and turned out to hold up a sign while Suzanne read her firm and clear statement against the bill. We were six people, if you count our Conservative MP’s constituency assistant, who looked so benign I thought he must be one of us and offered him a sign to hold.

I was mercifully silent. Suzanne and my husband Jim talked to reporters (Suzanne had sent out media releases) and the five of us who were against the bill dispersed, feeling unaccountably cheerful despite the cold wind and our lack of numbers. We had been fortified with good wishes from many who were at work and couldn’t come; we had presented our absent MP with a copy of a 30,000-signature petition and a list of objections from the Canadian Bar Association; and anyway, we had had only two days’ notice.

Later I went to Leadnow.ca, the site of the young activists who dreamed this up. They had posted photos from more than 160 events from across the country. One was clearly a one-person demonstration; you could tell the photographer was holding his arm out to take his own photo. Some were two, or three, or four. It didn’t matter. They were concerned, energetic, waving signs, and speaking to the press. Many had managed groups of ten or more, some of them elders.

Yes. Elders, turning out to help the young ones who will live with the results of this cruel bill long after we are gone, the huge (and still-untold) financial cost of new prisons, the lack of emphasis on rehabilitation, the lack of hope. Elders, maybe worn a bit by life, but aware and opinionated.

I know. It’s better if we don’t monopolize the conversation. Elders need to know when to get out of the way. Still, the next time my cautious little inner voice suggests I should just shut up, I think I’ll talk over it.

A journalist for more than 30 years, Donna Sinclair is an award-winning writer who has traveled widely in Canada, Africa, Central America, Britain, and Eastern Europe. She is the author of The Spirituality of Bread, The Spirituality of Gardening, A Woman’s Book of Days, A Woman’s Book of Days 2, and numerous other titles. Donna lives with her husband Jim in North Bay, Ontario.

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Categories: Aging, Donna Sinclair

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