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Life as Performance Art

      Not too long ago some wise guy or girl came up with the nutty idea that there ought to be age limits on politicians.  Just as here in Michigan and a few other states elected officials can be “termed out,” after a certain number of years, the proponents of this idea think that at some arbitrarily selected number, an elected official is too old to stay around.  As my mother would say, “Them’s fightin’ words!”
     Age, like time itself, is an artificial construct. It is numbers; it is math.  Period.  And simply because the calendar has cycled through a certain number of numbers does not mean much.  In the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s, President Roosevelt and his Brain Trust came up with the idea of Social Security.  Men and women ought to be able to retire from work to enjoy a few years of leisure before they fell off their perch. At the time, the normal lifespan for men was 68 years, so the Social Security Administration proposed retirement for those who turned 65, along with a modest financial supplement to augment their savings.
      It was a good idea. Even though our lifespan has increased, those who want to retire can do so, and it makes way for younger people to pick up the baton.  Hold on to that phrase, “those who want to retire can do so,” because it is important. 
     The difficulty with this idea is that it was not long before retirement at age 65 became mandatory. The attitude became, “The poor old dears are past it, so it’s time for them to be put out to pasture.”  Those who grasp on to that concept use an assortment of pseudo-scientific studies that older people do not have the physical stamina or mental agility to be of much value.
     Now look back when you and I were in elementary school. If we forgot our math book at home, it was written off because we were careless.  By the time we got into junior and senior high school, we left our math book at home is because we were not focusing on education, but sports, friends, and so on.
By the time we got to middle age, if we forgot something it was deemed that we were stressed out. But so help me, the moment we turn 65 and forget something, family and friends give one another that knowing look that says, “Oh dear, his/her mind is starting to go away with the fairies.”
     That is just plain discriminatory ageism. It’s bigotry against a number, and it is far worse when it is our number.
     Some of the world’s best leaders, in politics, or any other field, were a bit slow off the mark in their career and did not really achieve success until the number came up when others were thinking about a rocking chair on the front porch.  Conversely, some of the best and brightest made their fame and fortune early in life, lived off the glory, and then did little or nothing until they took a final tumble from their perch.  Others move forward in their profession at a steady pace.
    Just which number do you want to arbitrarily pick to evaluate the worth of an individual or project their ability to continue contributing to society?   Which number do you want someone to pick for you?
     As for this business about the brain slowing down – seriously?  Sure, the synapses may move a bit more slowly, but that’s because they are reviewing a lifetime of useful information to get to a wise conclusion.  Falling asleep at a meeting?  Come on, that’s when we check the inside of our eyelids, and when we are focused on keeping quiet, rather than making a snarky rejoinder, while some youngster is prattling away.  Or maybe it is because of some long-winded geriatric millennial us boring us.
    Most of us are smart enough to figure out when the time has come to retire. The fun is gone out of the work, we begin to resent the challenges, and we want to do something else. Or it might be something else.  We don’t need an arbitrary number to make the decision for us.
     As far as politicians are concerned, they will know when the fire has gone out of their heart, and not obedience to some arbitrary number.  And, if they can’t figure out that it is time to move on, their state or national committee will tell them.  If that doesn’t work, the voters will give them the nudge out the door.
     Meanwhile, we need their connections that make it possible to get things done, their experiences of what works and doesn’t work, and so much more.  Let’s drop this idea of age limits before it gets any more traction.

One Reply to “Life as Performance Art

  1. Having been born in Douglas 90 years ago, my personal experience has proven that age will take a toll on the mind and body. Recall of one’s “lifetime” becomes superior to issues of the present for most of us. There are exceptions I’ll agree, but using your age as a goal to
    continue in office while being pushed into the chambers by a young
    nurse so that you can receive the senior longevity award make no
    sense. Former President Thump is todays exception while President
    Biden is not and I could go into many reasons but our border in no. 1.
    Thanks for the “leave a Reply”
    Jack Rhodes, Lakeland Florida

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