COVID-19 incites fear. The mixed messages, the uncertainty, and the tangible changes to life as we’d known it stokes the flames. Unfortunately, when people feel fear, things often get ugly.
Ageism, though not a new phenomenon in our country, has most recently been given a new voice—and new airwaves. I’ve included below a little “Op Ed” I’ve written, a shorter version of which was printed in McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies—A Force Outside Myself: Citizens Over 60 Speak. (I encourage you to read the column and also to send your own reflections to McSweeney’s—maybe you’ll see yours on the Internet too!)
“Sacrifice the Weak!”
Since I’ve written the piece, more people have voiced their ageist “suggestions.” Their “concerns” also include those who have disabilities. According to a terrific article in the LA Times by Laura Newberry, a woman protesting her state’s lockdown carried this sign: “‘Sacrifice the weak, reopen (Tennessee).’”
I, for one, have not words!
Most people aren’t quite as upfront as that Southern “belle,” but they don’t stray too far from her sentiments. Ben Shapiro, a (young) conservative political commentator said these words recently while discussing with David Rubin on The Rubin Report how states need to go about making their lockdown decisions: “If somebody who is 81 dies of COVID-19, that is not the same thing as somebody who is 30 dying of COVID-19 … If grandma dies in a nursing home at age 81, that’s tragic and it’s terrible, also the life expectancy in the United States is 80.”
Oh! His poor, poor grandma!
Prioritize Medical Care for the Young???
These ideas are not confined to a red/blue debate. People of all political persuasions have expressed a clear bias in “prioritizing.” Gavin Newsom California’s democratic governor, for example, took quite a bit of flack recently when his administration suggested that hospitals give priority when it comes to medical care to younger people who have a greater life expectancy.
“Then,” according to the Herald Mail Media, “as quietly as the guidelines were initially posted online, the document was removed and replaced with another version stating California’s commitment to prohibiting discrimination and promising that the administration would revise what had been previously labeled as the final recommendations ‘to ensure that they reflect our values as a state.’”
O.K. I could rant about this for days. While I’ll spare you that, I do hope you’ll read the piece below, which I call “Let’s Not Kill Granny.”
Let’s Not Kill Granny
“Kill Granny.” That’s what I call this new attack on older Americans “inspired” by COVID19. Old people (the definition of which, by the way, varies considerably depending on which age group is doing the defining) are going to die soon anyway, the logic goes, so why waste a ventilator or a needed hospital bed on a senior when a more “deserving” candidate may be in need? I’m not going to argue who is most worthy of healthcare. I’ll leave that one to the bioethicists among us. But questions like this shed light on an insidious attitude towards those of us who are getting up in years.
Just as our current political climate has opened new spaces for the expression of hatred towards other marginalized groups, old folks, Corona has now done us the honors. And, like other oppressive movements, where those targeted sometimes buy into the rhetoric, some of this movement’s staunchest supporters come from within our own ranks—older men. “Give your life for the sake of the economy, old people,” is a message I’ve been hearing way too often lately, if not in so many words.
Take Glenn Beck–Please!
Take Glenn Beck—please! (Oh, pray tell, where is Rodney Dangerfield when you need him?) On his Blaze TV show, broadcasting from safely inside his own home, 56-year-old Beck offered these impassioned words on the subject: “I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working … Even if we all get sick, I would rather die than kill the country. Because it’s not the economy that’s dying, it’s the country.”
Beck is not alone in his stupidity. There’s the almost-70-year-old Lieutenant Governor of the great state of Texas, who recently said in an interview with Tucker Carlson, no less, “I want to live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed.” He claims to have talked to “hundreds of people … and everyone says pretty much the same thing.”
Well, Mr. Beck and, of course, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, you and your hundreds of cohorts are welcome to take the bullet, but not me, certainly not for the economy.
The Real Loser Is Not the Economy But Our Humanity
When old people, or any people, are valued less than the almighty dollar, the real loser is not the economy but our humanity. And for individuals who don’t see the value in those who’ve lived long lives, I say, “Your loss!”
I believe I am more valuable now than I’ve ever been before. Gone are the days when I was pulled in multiple directions, stretched to my limit, working, raising kids, and, often, my husband. I have a much broader perspective now, much greater humility, and, yes, greater wisdom. By living and learning, I’ve become a person with much to share. And the “hundreds” of seniors I’ve talked to “say pretty much the same thing.”
The more seasons one experiences, the more seasoned one becomes. So instead of “Killing Granny” maybe we should look to her right now, she who’s been through all sorts of national crises and who’s come out the other side—instead of offering her up in sacrifice.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please post a comment or send me an email.
And, take good care, stay safe and healthy—and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not worthy!
See you in two weeks!