Monday, October 5, 2009

It’s getting embarrassing to be an old white person

It’s getting embarrassing to be an old white person. One of my Facebook friends recently wrote:

Witnessed two 70-something white people, who did not previously know each other, celebrating the fact that Chicago was not selected to host the Olympics in a Wawa in South Jersey today. Their glee was directly related to Obama "failing" and and... one of them even threw in a very thinly veiled racist comment for good measure. What is currently happening in this country is disturbing and alarming.

When I went to a local mall this week end, there were all these white people in their sixties and seventies holding up signs with “Say no to Socialism!” And “Keep your hands off my Health care.” The closest thing we have to socialism in this country is Medicare, which these seniors want to save. And yet some of them carry signs saying that government should keep its hands off their Medicare. Huh?

Now of course there are many seniors—such as all my friends--who support extending the benefits they enjoy to the rest of the population. (See my September 5 post, "There are a lot of seniors out there who support health care reform")

But the reality is that much of the opposition comes from my demographic. Of course it’s not just old people who march around brandishing pictures of Obama with a Hitler mustache or portrayed as a witch doctor, but old people are clearly over-represented.

The selfishness of some of these seniors is probably going to increase ageism among the young. How could it not?

I’ve tried to understand their fears and maybe muster some sympathy. These are people who see the world changing in ways they could never have imagined. And it’s not just having an African-American president. It’s seeing states (maybe their own state) legalizing gay marriage. And it’s seeing their children and grand children embracing a multi-cultural America and voting for Barack Obama.

I’ve tried to understand the fears underlying all this, but the ugliness and mean spiritedness makes it really hard.


  1. What you fail to understand is the world that is changing is the world that they created through back breaking work. They contributed to the madicare system via deductions from their paychecks. They brought America to its pinnacle of success through hard work, dedication, patriotism and profound christian morals.
    Now, they see everything that made America great being destroyed right before their eyes. All that is necessary to understand their plight is to study history. There are many parallels throughout history that present damning evidence of what happens when taking the path that we are currently pursuing.

  2. I don't think Jim Crow was part of what made America great, yet the comments at the Tea Party Convention hinted at a current within that party to bring it back, very clearly aimed at those old enough to remember it. (For the record, I do not: I am 24.)

    I am all for keeping Medicare. I am all for European-style (socialized) medicine for EVERYONE. I am military and will be able to leave service when it's time with full veteran's benefits. My family, whom I cannot claim as dependents despite the medical issues they have, will not be so fortunate. I am all for HELPING the people who want the help, but clearly don't understand the workings of the source (as signs like the OP noted above demonstrate).

    Personal anecdote: bear with me, I am going someplace with it. I was 23, broke, homeless and unemployed when I enlisted. Needless to say, I had no medical coverage. I had a GED. I had no chance. Thanks to the benefits provided to me by the military, I really do have a fighting chance: at a college education, at a career during and after service, at healthcare for the rest of my life, and in the end, at a (hopefully) honorable retirement. Guess what? The benefits I have gained that turned me around from being a high school dropout and burden to society? It's paid for by the taxpayers. You like your military? It's all socialized: we all pay the burden for it (military too). Same with your Postal Service (of which my father is an employee).

    That is a large core of what the older generations in particular are so afraid of. You mentioned studying history: I am all for that as well: too many lessons will continue to go relearned again and again in the most painful fashion until we all know a history that approximates truth. But our current (socialized) system of public education falls woefully short in that aspect.

    From the beginning of the 19th-century onwards, the economic ideas developed under socialism have been perceived by moneyed interests in this country as a threat to them as great as the perceived political threat of communism. Media manipulation is no great new trick: it was practiced as early as the 1920s to conflate the ideas of socialism and communism in the minds of the population. Every generation from the 1920's to the mid '90s has labored under this miseducation and the fear and hysteria it generated. At the same time, a near-worship of American nationalist pride in American ingenuity and achievements was combined with a similar feeling of the sanctity of the capitalist system, and instilled into the minds of the American public: a potent and dangerous combination that resulted in America resting on its collective laurels. This is what my grandparents and great-grandparents grew up believing: this is the mindset that is watching its chokehold on the collective minds of the public slowly breaking, and it is this mindset that is fighting back so hard against what it sees as the "threat" of progress.

    So I've gone a little long-winded about it and my apologies go to the Original Poster for having done so, but it all comes down to this. What I want to see is, when I go out to sea and fight, I want my family to be cared for better than I am by the military. I want to see that every legal citizen of the United States enjoys the full rights and privileges of the Constitution that I am twice sworn to protect, preserve and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

    Most of all, I want there to be an America left for me to come home to, one better than the one I came from. Any idea from any quarter that will further those goals for me is a good one. But I hear only the antithesis of such aims coming from the Tea Party movement, and it both angers and saddens me.

  3. Nice reply Deborah. Well said! The mass media has done a phenomenal job in brainwashing average Americans to the point where they can't tell fact from fiction.
    Good job Hollywood and ditto to the press corps in DC and New York!