Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thoughts on aging, change, and the Founding Fathers. . .

Brad Jenkins, General Manager of The Breeze (JMU's fine student newspaper) tagged me this morning in a Facebook photo. There I am, participating in Breeze Camp, talking to the paper's editorial staff about interviewing and story telling.

My reaction to being confronted with an unexpected, early-morning picture of myself was two-fold: 1) Wow! Have I aged; and 2) Wow! Am I having a blast.

Both are true. And both are equally acceptable. To me, anyway. But, perhaps, not to society at large. At least, the aging part.

Sixty, I am constantly told, is the new thirty.

That statement—meant, I suppose, to cheer me and the vast herd of my fellow 50-60-ish hipsters—frankly bamboozles me: What is it supposed to mean? Which part of thirty is going to return? The smoking-like-a-chimney, dance-all-night part? The idiot part? The unstable-personal-life part?

Here’s the deal: I've been 30, and I prefer adventure to repetition.

I do still dance uncontrollably sometimes in grocery store aisles, but for the most part I've moved way beyond the person I was at 30. And I have no desire for anyone to take me as anything other than what I am: A 63-year-old woman who enjoys being a 63-year-old woman.

The inescapable, unavoidable truth is life passes and things change; I've changed, the world has changed. The only thing that seems unchanged is the relentless nature of change, itself.  We humans either periodically update our take on reality, or we are left cowering in the corner, pointlessly trying to recreate a world, a life, a philosophy that has passed into the past along with Mick Jagger's and my youth. A long-gone reality that had its own anxiety-producing problems that we avoided by dreaming of another past, further back.

It seems to me that failing to accept change as a fundamental aspect of reality is one of the things that is behind all this Founding Fathers talk in politics. It's all so angry and so vague. And, for the life of me, I can't find much point to it other than fueling people's natural fears during uncertain times.

For example, if you go to the Tea Party Patriot website, you'll find an invitation to sign the following petition:
We the undersigned have understood the true meaning of the below document. Again we find ourselves suffering at the hands of TYRANTS. This petition is to recommit ourselves to the founding values, primary of all that LIBERTIES come from our CREATOR and not men. That being so, they only govern with the consent of THE PEOPLE. We are declaring independence from tyrants, the elite and those that wish harm to our REPUBLIC. Even coming out of silence the tyrants continue to plot our demise. WE THE PEOPLE declare to be free men and women and we will be lied no more. 

What, I ask you, does this mean? What plot? What founding values? How will signing this document help confront today's confusing, complex, anxiety-producing reality?

I rooted around in the site for something akin to a political platform and instead found such offerings as Who Am I, which compares President Obama's background to Adolf Hitler's.

Oh dearie me. . .

Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally is set for this Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial. I went to his website to try to find some kind of statement relevant to today's problems and instead read:
Throughout history America has seen many great leaders and noteworthy citizens change her course. It is through their personal virtues and by their example that we can live as a free country. On August 28th, come celebrate America by honoring our heroes, our heritage and our future.

Join the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and many more for this non-political event that pays tribute to America’s service personnel and other upstanding citizens who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth and honor.

Our freedom is possible only if we remain virtuous. Help us restore the values that founded this great nation. 
Again, to which particular values is Mr. Beck referring? Whose definition of virtuous is he using? Is virtue something Glenn Beck wants to legislate?

The Founding Fathers certainly were not a particularly virtuous bunch. But then I suspect there will be some terrific pruning of history going on next Saturday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Sarah Palin and the Tea Party flexed their clout in yesterday's Republican primary in Florida and Alaska. Mostly, it seems, through helping people focus their vague fears at two specific targets: our first black President and our first woman Speaker of the House.

It all just makes me want to challenge Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck to a reality smack-down. The truth is I am irrevocably 63, and this is irrevocably 2010. None of us can go back. Go back to what, exactly? Whose idea of "back" are we talking about?

It's natural to long for times to be simpler. But our times are what they are now. And the solutions to our problems will only be found by facing them in the here and now.


  1. I certainly agree with you, Martha. What bothers me is how so many citizens look for simple solutions to complex problems, marking someone or something as the "enemy" that must be defeated.

  2. The Tea Partyers are loud and angry without being bound to any coherent ideas or policies or plans. They're against big government, but many are pro-war . . . against government support for healthcare, but some of them demand, "Don't take away my Medicare!" . . . not racist (not officially, so we must assume many are not), though some carry signs with virulently racist messages. They seem like a mob waiting to be told where to throw their pitchforks, though they are a fairly privileged mob as mobs go. As one who (also over 60!) remembers the March on Washington of Aug.28,1963, the thought of said mob and their loudest demagogues laying claim to that sacred site on the anniversary is heartbreaking.