We elders play a significant role in the politics of our country. Having acquired an ocean of experience and wisdom we are the lighthouse by which younger politicians find their way.
We’ve lived through wars, the highs and lows of our volatile economic system and the social crises which serve to identity the policies that are favorable or unfavorable to the populace. Each generation of elders inherits the role of custodian of the country’s history, the job being to pass on what the Eastern traditions call the sanskars of the nation’s culture and social fabric, setting examples of “good thought” and the “right actions” that result.
Simply stated, the job of a society’s elders is to set an example through our actions.
But what do you see when you scan the face of our country’s Attorney General, a living metaphor for the sycophantic cabinet members, congressional leaders and big pocket lobbyists occupying the political cat bird seats as the country crumbles into chaos?
I see a misanthropic old man. I see in his face a nation floundering in demagoguery, strangled by political fundamentalism. I see in his face a political system that serves only the minority of the populace, the people who seek and wield power. I see in his face an isolationist’s regressive disdain scarcely muffled behind battlements of self-righteousness.
In school I was taught about a democracy that served the people, all the people from all levels of our society. But it is clear that this politician represents the narrow constituencies of tightly defined ideologies that falsely claim to uphold the tenets of the democracy that birthed our country and gave it its strength.
It is disheartening. Because while Jeff Sessions is literally the face of this piece it has more to do with who we are than who he is. If we seniors want to be respected as patriarchs rather than pariahs, we must elevate the part we play in present day society, and rather than dismiss our lifetime of experience, apply it.
It is horrifying to browse the social media rants infesting the internet, reading what younger generations feel about the elderly, “just a bunch of grumpy burdens to society.” Allow that opinion to prevail and we seniors become nothing more than a huge voting bloc that politicians pander to, promising relief for ailments and resentments in exchange for votes, perpetual incumbency and tacit approval to ferment rancor and discord.
In contrast, elder life can be a time of both engagement and service in communities rather than withdrawal. In lieu of the list of ailments there is a list of lessons learned that have relevance to generations that follow.
On top of the list is the warning to disavow politicians breeding rancor and discord. We know the harvest of inequities, incarcerations, and economic oppression these politicians plant.
To that end, a few of us will march in protest or post their opinions on social media. But all of us can vote. The choices on the ballot will be clear: compassion over contempt; tolerance over prejudice. And if that criterion is met more frequently on the Democrats side of the ballot, so be it.
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