The following Opinion article, by TVDC Board member Marsha Shearer, appeared in Newsweek on July 9, 2020. It is pasted here in its entirety.
Confession time: My name is Marsha Shearer and I live in The Villages, Florida. Yes, that place: the place where a golf-cart driver was filmed yelling "white power", and made it all the way to Trump's Twitter feed, via a presidential retweet. We are now firmly known to the world as the heart of Trump country, full of ill-behaved retirees—with a bunch of racists thrown into the mix. Even before Trump came along, this was identified as the Conservative and/or Republican bastion in Florida. Both of these descriptions are accurate, but they are not the whole story; far from it. And while this is the belly of the beast for those with progressive, liberal, left- leaning beliefs and values, I wouldn't live anyplace else.
First, that video needs to be put in context. What happened on that day in June is a glimpse in miniature of what it's like living in The Villages. Earlier that day, several hundred people met in the Square, the community's gathering place, to solemnly acknowledge and share the pain resulting from the murder of George Floyd. Poems and essays were read, community members voiced their grief, and there was a communal sense of loss and commonality of emotion and purpose. The hour ended in silent kneeling for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. People carried signs saying 'Black Lives Matter.' Mine said "Are we great yet? #Black Lives Matter." The other side of the sign quoted Martin Luther King; "Our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter."
Immediately following our event, a golf cart rally was scheduled in support of Trump and to celebrate his birthday. Talk about lousy timing. Several hundred golf carts took a drive around the Square honking horns and yelling support. That's where the video came from. It was embarrassing, disgusting, confrontational and sickening.
So there you have it: juxtaposed opposites, two groups splintered from one another while living and interacting in the same community. But that's only part of a complicated picture.
In this Trumpers' paradise is the largest Democratic Club in the State of Florida. Not because we have more Democrats than other similarly sized communities; we're outnumbered here 3 to 1. It is because we live in a vivid microcosm of an America we can't relate to – one that is an insult to what most Americans believe America was conceived to be. Trump and his administration have galvanized us and served as an impetus to come together to proudly share the values of Democrats—of liberty and justice for all—with emphasis on the last two words. The values of concern for others, of respect and appreciation for cultural differences, of truth and transparency. The values that call for a commitment to work to make this country and our community a better place, to heed our better angels, and to help bend the arc of justice. Those aren't just iconic words. We do not accept what a chance visitor might mistake for The Villages' universal political stance. We walk the walk. We are active.
We walk out of establishments that refuse to change channels from FOX News. We boycott shops that sell only Trump paraphernalia. We write letters to the editor and opinion pieces for the local online paper. We cancel subscriptions to the Daily Sun—the local developer-owned and influenced paper that serves as a mouthpiece for Trumpian "values." We support one another and we work like hell for candidates who represent the best of who we can be. We embrace needed change as we embrace each other. And we detest everything that Trump stands for and represents.
In addition to The Villages being home to some of the most wonderfully supportive, intelligent, caring people I've known, are the kind of amenities that make The Villages a great place to live. Normally—but not in the time of a pandemic— there are literally thousands of different clubs and activities that are available to everyone. Many focus on personal growth and learning new skills and information. Clubs like Civil Discourse, Free Thinkers, the Philosophy Club, Foreign Films, Humanists, foodie groups for—yes— foodies, creative groups that teach skills and provide opportunities you never had the time for, like dozens of art/sculpture classes, writers groups, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, classes in everything from the martial arts to Pilates, from the Constitution to cheerleading. There are dozens of golf courses and pools. If lifelong learning is a personal goal than anything you can dream up is here and available.
Most important of all, regardless of your party registration, if you are a thinking, open, inquisitive person, looking at retirement as an adventure and an opportunity for personal growth and giving back, you will find your new best friends here, eager to welcome you.
In many ways, we are like any other community of 130,000 and growing. People come here to live from all over the world, each bringing with them a lifetime of experience. And like any other community, we represent a bell-
shaped curve of education, experience, values and beliefs—the latter admittedly skewing right. But don't allow a few people to influence your view of The Villages. What you saw in the video exists. That's a fact. But it is not representative of who we are, however we identify ourselves, any more than Donald Trump is representative of the values of this nation.
Marsha Shearer has lived in The Villages for the past 20 years. She is a retired educator and school administrator. Her last position was with the Department of Dependent Schools overseas. A lifelong Democrat, she is the author of the recently published book, "America in Crisis; Essays on the Failed Presidency of Donald J. Trump."
The views expressed in this article are the author's own.