There are lots of insults you can hurl at politicians that get at the core of their character. “Old” should not be one of them.
These days on social media, you might find yourself liking, sharing or even writing an angry post or tweet that refers to Trump as an “evil, bombastic old xenophobic, misogynistic, racist” or refers to Bernie as “an angry, loud old man.”
But why is “old” in there? The word has slipped into our dialogue, and it’s everywhere. Even in the press. I’m tuned into it…because *I* am old. But not so old that I can no longer think. And my brain and heart are telling me that I don’t want my “old” to live next to the word racist. My years are not an attitude, a fault, or a state of mind. They’re a fact.
Stroll through the greeting cards in the grocery aisle and look for a “Happy Birthday Grandma” card. You will find her there: the saggy-boobed old woman whose nylons are wrapped around her ankles. Usually she’s wearing a purple hat, and saying something crabby; or sitting next to her fat and flatulent old husband, who is yelling out the window at the kids on the front lawn. Or watch the brilliantly funny SNL sketch that’s an ad for Amazon Echo Silver where feeble, forgetful and hard of hearing old people can talk to a product whose name (Alexa) they’ve forgotten. All of this is comedic stereotyping. That’s part of comedy.
But let’s not make it part of our politics.
When I went to March for Our Lives on March 24, I walked next to a woman who was going faster than me, even with a rather dilapidated and well-used walker. I saw people I knew from senior organizations. One of those people was a 77-year-old man who runs a local church group that feeds homeless women. Another was a retired woman executive who ran a national company, and now devotes a great deal of her time to her local Indivisible organization. And of course there were retired teachers galore, visiting with their middle-aged former students, young families in tow, while supporting this incredible gun control movement now being led by our beloved young people.
We need to help every 18-year-old register to vote: we need them at the polls if there is to be a Blue Tsunami.
But we need the boomers, too. We don’t need to be shaming them or mocking them in our dialogue, suggesting that old people are hobbled in their ideas, as they may be in their physical prowess. Aging is a fact of life – not a quality to be derided.
In fact: I’d urge you to consider that many older Americans were introduced to civic life during the tumultuous civil rights and Vietnam war protests. This ain’t their first rodeo. And many are ready to continue marching.
It is the mix of youth and ability and experience which will bring us through this bad patch in our democracy. Don’t toss anyone out, in your language, in order to make a point. In an age of unimaginable disrespect and anger, led by a president who has no moral center, we must find every possible way to open our doors to reasoned dialogue. Don’t toss out the people who are “old.”. We need them to rally. We need them to make calls. We need them to write postcards. We need them to keep thinking.
And we need to listen to their insight, before they go away.