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We are a few days away from what may be the most important election of our time. I am an American, a naturalized immigrant, a Jew, a mom and grandma -- facing the threat that perhaps my American born children will no longer be citizens. 

​My heart is broken for the families of those who have been the victims of the incredible hatred that surrounds us. The loss that they have experienced is unimaginable. When I close my eyes I see the numbered tattoo on my cousin’s arm, I hear the voice of my father telling the story of the liberation of Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Are we as a nation not better than this?

My heart also is breaking for what may lie ahead for our grandchildren, all future generations and democracy as we know it. Will we abandon all civility and allow hatred to dominate our lives and destroy our democracy? Will we allow continued degradation of our laws until there are no protections for the health and wellbeing of our residents? There are times when I feel completely helpless and then I realize each of us must stand up for what we believe.

If you have not already done so, please VOTE. Your future depends on it as does the future of all of the grandchildren. We remember all the victims of senseless hate and violence and we stand with the survivors.
The elder voice is critical, VOTE on November 6th.

For the our grandchildren, future generations and all life,        

           Geri

GERI FRIEDMAN is the co-convener of Elders Climate Action, and is a board member of the Elders Action Network.  She has been inspired to become an activist in her elders years by her love for her grandchildren.  Before retiring she worked in social services and government administration, and was active in the women’s movement, the war and the environment before her career and family.
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Three days ago I learned about Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden.  I read the website and tears welled up – which is not typical for me.  I thought, “Here is a group of elders who are putting their hearts and spirits into action.” 
 
“Over six days, beginning July 31, the caravan will journey more than 2,000 miles, onboarding other “grannies” along the way. They will host rallies in strategic political districts in cities along the way to protest the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy for immigrants and asylum seekers.

Beginning with a rally in New York City, Grannies Respond will make stops in Reading and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Louisville, Kentucky; Montgomery, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Houston, Texas; before finally reaching a detainment facility in either McAllen or Brownsville, Texas.” So read the story in YES! Magazine.

I decided to join them.  I hate bus rides.  I sit up front so that I won’t get nauseous.  My back hurts after driving in the car for a couple of hours.  The bathrooms smells.  So, why am I doing this?

This year I have challenged myself to “live as though the truth was really true”
If I believe that what is happening on our southern border is wrong.  If I believe that my government is acting in my name.  If I believe that as an elder I have a responsibility to speak up for the welfare of the children, the future generation – how can I not join this journey?
I am appalled at what our government is doing -- using innocent children for political gain, and destroying families who are fleeing dangerous conditions in their home communities.  
 
I am thrilled that this journey is happening.  I want to stand with the other Grannies, and speak what I believe to be true -- to love the stranger, to care for those whose lives are threatened, to be compassionate, to welcome the “tired, the poor the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  
 
I want to again believe in the principles of our nation – even as I understand that our history has never fully lived those values. I feel so ashamed of our president and our government, and the lack of integrity of our elected leaders.  I don’t want to give up or move away. 
 
I want to reclaim my country and our values.  Sometimes I lack the personal know how, courage or energy to figure out how to fix the issues and injustices that I see -- and I am grateful that there are others also doing this work, finding their voice, acting together.
 
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.  (Margaret Mead)
 
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Join the Caravan, and/or offer your support.  
Check out the Facebook page
Show up for their rallies:
            Tuesday, July 31st, New York City
            Tuesday, July 31st, Berks Detention Center, Reading, PA
            Wednesday, Aug 1st, Pittsburgh
            Thursday, Aug 2nd, Louisville, KY
            Friday, Aug 3rd, Montgomery, AL
            Saturday, Aug. 4th, New Orleans, LA
            Sunday, Aug 5th, Houston, TX
            Monday, Aug 6th, McAllen TX
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Old Farts” Group Protest Results in Arrest of 6 at ICE in Philadelphia
 
As a group of elders we wanted to call attention to what was happening to the three thousand children that had been forcibly taken from their parents when they entered the United States from our southern border.  We were appalled that our government would harm children in this way.  Have you ever witnessed a children or a parent that have lost each other in a public place?  The child is crying, the parent is near hysteria with fear.  Imagine if they were not able to find each other.  Imagine if they were in a strange country, where everyone was speaking a different language.  Could you imagine the fear?  The terror?  

These families have survived the arduous journey to come to the United States – in most cases fleeing situations in their home country where their lives have been threatened, relatives have been killed, children or women taken as hostages or been raped.  These parents are not coming here for the “good life” – they are coming to the U.S. seeking asylum.
 
As a grandmother and mother of five children my heart went out to those parents and children.  I know that this treatment is inhumane, uncaring and unethical – because we don’t use children to further political agendas. These policies of putting families, with young children, into detention, and of separating families at the border must stop.
 
I was not alone in my concern.  Friends invited me to a meeting, where they were discussing how to bring attention to this issue.  There had been many protests at the local ICE -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement – office, and we wanted to keep up the pressure.  We decided to arrive early, stand in front of the door with a banner, and not allow anyone to enter or leave. 
We’re elders with years of experience, resources and networks! 
A lawyer friend advised us about what might happen.  His daughter, a journalist, helped get our press release to the media.  Another man, a disability rights attorney, informed his clients who decided to show up – and, added their powerful presence.  One woman, a professor, wrote our press release.  Two other women put together facts about immigration – which was read as part of our demonstration.  Another friend wrote chants and gathered songs, and another showed up with a guitar and portable microphone.  One woman is a rabbi and knows how to lead a service – so she was the natural emcee.  We had a retired physician’s assistant, fluent in Spanish, who gave an interview with Spanish language press.  Several of use wrote 3 minutes “speeches.”
 
We each agreed that we would elicit five other people to come down and join us – either to “risk arrest” or stand in support.  In the end 4 of us stood and 2 of us sat, in front of the ICE office door blocking the door for 2 ½ hours; about 70 others joined us on the streets, and many, many others honked their horns as they passed by.
 
What did we accomplish?
  • We learned that we could easily organize and take a stand for something that was important to all of us.   
  • We had good media coverage, and several of us were quoted on NPR, and the local TV stations each ran small segments. 
  • People were inspired – maybe empowered.  Many people noticed that old folks were standing and speaking as elders.  It garnered attention.
  • A local councilwoman attended and powerfully adding her voice to ours. 
  • We got worldwide press coverage with “85 year old Rabbi Gets Arrested.”
  • Young people loved us and noticed.  We were called “Old Farts” by one of our own.  I cringed –but then I paid attention.  “Old Farts” went viral.  Young folks were impressed, they want “to be like the Old Farts” when they are old.  They offered us bail money.  They/we were touched that we/they cared. 
 
I still believe that it is important to act like an elder.  To raise our moral voice and stand for the principles and values that we know are critical to a healthy society, speaking for the welfare of all – most especially the children.
 
But now I am willing to also be called an Old Fart -- and not take myself so seriously! I’ve learned that it can be an endearing term, an embrace of old age in a jocular kind of way -- so, although I want to stand as an elder I am now OK about being called an “Old Fart.”
 
What Can You Do?
  • Check out the media coverage – what do you think?
  • Get together with friends and consider if there is something you want to do together.  You don’t need to risk arrest.  You can speak up in City Council.  Attend a community meeting – identify yourself as an elder. 
  • Join Conscious Elders Network – and become part of a national movement of elders.
  • Read -- "Caravan of Grandmothers Heads to Mexican Border" in YES! Magazine
  • Learn More at RAICES -- The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services
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Last Monday, I got arrested in the Pennsylvania State Capitol.  Getting handcuffed and locked up was a bit frightening, but living these days has become more frightening as I listen to the daily news -- and that is why I joined the most expansive wave of nonviolent civil disobedience in U.S. history.
 
I was in good company.  There were at at least 8 clergy, along with 16 other folks who got arrested. Together, we were standing in solidarity with the Poor People’s Campaign in their second week of action focused on Linking Systemic Racism and Poverty.  We were part of a nationwide campaign – with over 400 people getting arrested this past Monday in state capitols around the nation.
 And the week before – same thing! 
Hundreds of people got arrested, and thousands more standing for the theme of “Somebody’s Hurting Our People.”
 
It is time to break the silence about America’s real war on the poor, and for us all to understand the systemic nature of poverty. Although our economy might be growing, wages are not increasing; the federal minimum wage will does not keep people out of poverty; and, 40% of American have debt as a result of health care. 

I believe that people should not live or die in poverty in the the richest country in the world.  
I believe that it is time to reclaim the moral narrative of our country. As an elder I know that we must care for all people; and especially those who are going through difficult times.  Isn't it our moral responsibility to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and to provide a good education for all children, along with decent health care?  I think so.
​Fifty years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for a "new and unsettling force to spark change in our nation," I’m committed to reigniting the Poor People’s Campaign that he and so many others tried to build. We’re creating a fusion movement led by people who are coming together regardless of race, color, creed and sexual orientation to challenge the status quo.  We are joining forces to declare that being poor isn’t a sin, but systemic poverty is. And we are committed to highlighting the interlocking evils of poverty, racism, ecological devastation and the war economy, and showing how you can’t confront one without challenging the others.
 
Monday’s arrests were just the beginning. Over 40 days, we’ll take our demands to end systemic poverty and racism, the war economy and ecological devastation to my politicians in Harrisburg, and other state capitols.  We’ll attend teach-ins and knock on doors all across the state to mobilize people to join our campaign and to engage in another form of powerful direct action: casting a vote in the next election. We are working on the state level because that is where much legislation is passed, and where we, as citizens and neighbors, can build power together -- from the ground up.

I do this for my children, and for the future.  A country without strong moral values cannot continue to thrive. 
Do you witness integrity in our leadership? Do you believe it is OK to bail out corporations, while we turn away from those in need?  Should our young people be saddled with college debt?  Should our high school students be subjected to gun violence in their schools?    

We can do better!
These first 40 days are just the beginning of a sustained, multi-year effort to save our country’s soul. 
​When working with others to plan the original Poor People’s Campaign, Dr. King said that to get the attention of legislators, people should “sit down if necessary in the middle of the street and say, 'We are here; we are poor; we don't have any money; you have made us this way … and we've come to stay until you do something about it.” 
 
In 31 state capitols across the country, that is exactly what we are doing.  
Will you join us next week? 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  • Sign up at Poor People’s Campaign – and receive weekly updates about what is happening in your state/region.  www.PoorPeoplesCampaign.org
  • ATTEND A RALLY in your state capitol. Be a supporter, learn more, witness what is happening
  • INVITE YOUR FRIENDS to come and view one of the livestreamed events.  Be prepared with a few conversation starters.
  • Download the FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES of the Campaign and the AUDIT.  Start a conversation with friends about these documents.
  • DONATE!  Money is needed for the Campaign, for buses, food, etc – and to help with bail money for those who are without funds.
  • Help PUBLICIZE.  Share the Facebook page, spread the word to your lists/friends.  Explain why the campaign is important and how to sign up.
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Like many concerned citizens, I was devastated by the election of President Trump. I feared for the fate of justice, compassion and equality in our society; and, unfortunately, my fears were realized in the very first days of the administration with the announcement of the Muslim Ban. I wanted to take action but it felt too hard to do it alone.   I decided I would reach out for compatriots. 

I posted on Facebook, and sent emails to friends and neighbors, announcing that I would be at my house writing postcards to elected officials on Fridays, from 2 to 3 p.m. I didn’t know how it would go, and certainly never thought about this as a long-term project. I was heartened that 4 or 5 or 8 women showed up every time during the first few months. Those early members invited others, and the group grew. Now, members take turns hosting in their homes, and we communicate through our Facebook group; we have become an ongoing venture.
 
What we do is quite simple. ​​​We share issues of greatest concern to us each week, and then write postcards to our elected officials, committee chairs or committee members. We have learned that postcard messages are a simple, attention-grabbing means of registering our support or opposition to stances and measures taken by officials.  Over tea and snacks we sit for an hour and write exhortative messages about subjects such as immigration, gun control, environmental protection, judicial appointments, and criminal justice. We also write to express admiration and appreciation for those who have taken courageous positions.
Over the past year, we have written over 2,000 postcards. We now have over 20 members of the #PersistentPostcarders, as we named ourselves -- in honor of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was silenced when she spoke out against the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  Sen. McConnell defended cutting her speech off midstream, “…she was warned…nevertheless, she persisted.”
 
We recently celebrated our first anniversary—we had an open house at our neighborhood coffee shop, and offered guidance so that guests could write postcards on the spot about environmental issues, immigration, or gun control. We raised money for Turn PA Blue, that mobilizes support for Democratic candidates in “flippable” districts. We heard from Helen Tai, a candidate for State Representative in Bucks County. And, we expressed our gratitude for the gift of working together.
 
Events of the past year have frequently been frightening and discouraging. Nevertheless, WE persist. When we are together, #PersistentPostcarders learn more about the threats to our American values, and we do what we can to address them. We get to know our neighbors, many of whom like me are “beyond midlife.” And, as we do, we find that we are cheered by the fact of acting together. We are not alone.  
 
We are one tiny drop of water in a sea of organizing, activism and resistance.
 
Rabbi Dayle Friedman is a chaplain, and spiritual guide dedicated to bringing meaning, connection and solace to the second half of life. Her Philadelphia-based, national practice is Growing Older, www.growingolder.net. Her most recent book is Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older: Finding Your Grit and Grace Beyond Midlife (Jewish Lights, 2015).
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