In the Game and Keeping Your Voice

KABF Media Organizing

Marble Falls      Recently at a KABF board meeting, one of our longtime board members, a showrunner for one show, and a co-host of another wanted to give us a heads-up about underwriting for one of the shows.  He said it was getting harder to sign up the original nonprofit groups, each of which he would have take one of the four weeks to host the talk-and-call-in show about their issues and campaigns.  The show had been successfully running for several years with different groups coming and going, but now he gave us a heads’ up that he only had one group committed for one of the weeks.  It was a harder slough to recruit these nonprofits he was finding, because, as he then said, “I’m no longer in the game.”

Most of the KABF board members are not young, except in heart and spirit, so his comment resonated with several.  He had been a senior staffer and lobbyist for a big social services nonprofit before he retired several years ago.  He expounded on his comment, essentially saying, that as each year went by, he was less in touch and not in the daily grind and information exchange, he was increasingly disconnected from the current players in what had been his game, or the organizations that were now moving the pieces on the board.  He wasn’t complaining about this phenomenon, rather he was naming it and recognizing the change.

All of my working life, I’ve counseled organizers and other with the organization, that our work was our voice.  Leaving the work, whether to change careers, take a break, or even retire, needed to be done carefully and wisely, I would often say in so many words, because they needed to reckon with the fact that they would be losing their voice.  It’s different for different people, obviously, but it’s what happens when you are “no longer in the game” as well.

In the macro-economics of America, when so many retired early or participated in the so-called Great Resignation, which was more accurately a Great Job Musical Chair for many who saw their opportunity and took it to jump and land somewhere else and maybe even somewhere better, many were taking themselves out of the “game” entirely or changing how and where they wanted their “voice” to be heard and spoken.  For some retirees, unlike our board colleague, leaving the “game” can be unsettling, shorten lives, and put them in a mood.  Then, I also have a friend who has become a poet and painter, another colleague writing musicals and plays, and another writing fiction.  They found new voices; I would argue.  Others make a separate peace as grandparents, travelers, or volunteers, and are glad to be out of the “game” and to lower their “voice”.  Todo bien – all good!

Part of the far-right base, the Trumpsters, and, as Jill Lepore argued recently in The New Yorker, the people involved in the January 6th insurrection, have had a more difficult time as they have found their “voice” muted, and their access to the “games” they once dominated to be restricted or denied.  Their frustration is fueling division, outrage, and worse.  That’s not to say that people on the left are doing the happy dance, but at least they aren’t rioting in the streets, although they might have just cause.  Some are having trouble adapting with the kind of grace our board member demonstrated and want to maintain their claims of the game without being able to fully saddle up and ride.  We need to help ease those transitions.

The United States, unlike some countries in the East or among Native populations in many countries, is still “no country for old men” as the movie was called, nor old women.  We need to find a way that everyone, old and young, is in the game and have their voices heard.