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Let’s Not Kill Granny

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!

XOXO

Diane

14 Comments

  1. LA-TONIA WILLIS on May 13, 2020 at 10:38 pm

    Hi Diane,

    Your former MFA schoolmate, here. Nice work you’re doing! Keep it up! Unfortunately, we are being presented with a false dichotomy: the economy (aka “Kill Granny” vs. lockdown). In April when most, or a significant amount of Americans were sheltering-in-place, per White House and some states’ decree, we were supposed to be buying the Administration time so they could enact measures (testing, contact tracing, PPE, etc.) to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the SARS CoV-2 coronavirus that leads to COVID-19. If enacted properly while simultaneously sheltering in place, these measures would eventually allow for a phased reopening with far less impact to the economy than is the current situation. This mala-Administration failed to use the time wisely, per its own policy, to rise to the occasion with policies that address the need for an uptake in testing, standards on the level of disease prior to opening, and safeguards for workers’ safety and protection. In other words, nor President Trump or the White House had an actual plan for reopening. Only a mandate to do so.

    In February the misinformation from the White House assured us that the China travel ban would be enough to contain the virus. Of course, this didn’t make any sense because of many reasons, among them international travel flights from China connected to US outside of China, Americans still entered the US from China at the time; and oh, the virus doesn’t fear borders. In March, more time is wasted downplaying the virus by propaganda suggesting it’s not that bad, coupled with a lack of understanding in regard to the concept of exponential growth. And finally, April arrives…

    We now see in May that our efforts in April were taken for granted by the Administration when it opted to “do nothing” to change the variables that sent the country into confinement in the first place. Thus, we are now presented with a false choice that arose from a failed readiness plan from an Administration that couldn’t even follow its own prescriptions. Granny shouldn’t have to die (or be presented as the only valid either/or choice to the alternative of lockdown) because of the mismanagement of time and resources by failed leadership during this pandemic. (not)Sad. Mad.

    • Diane Gottlieb on May 14, 2020 at 3:31 am

      So well said, La-Tonia! False dichotomies seem to be the way of the world these days.
      Glad to hear your voice again–missed you!

  2. Sarita K Sid on May 11, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    Diane, you’ve nailed the zeitgeist. Not surprisingly, many of those who advocate sacrifice take great measures to remain safe themselves. I agree that what we lose is our humanity when we talk of sacrificing those we can ‘afford’ to lose.
    Your piece in McSweeney’s is brilliant & of course, very funny.
    I’m already looking forward to your next post!

    • Diane Gottlieb on May 11, 2020 at 6:43 pm

      Thank you, Sarita! You are so right,”many of those who advocate sacrifice take great measures to remain safe themselves.” Isn’t that the way it works so much of the time? Crazy-making!!!

  3. Janet Rodriguez on May 9, 2020 at 6:09 am

    This is PERFECTION!! You’ve done some good blogs before, Diane, but this is YOU! I can hear your voice, feel the waves of urgency and instruction. Amazing Blog. Thank you!

    • Diane Gottlieb on May 9, 2020 at 1:27 pm

      Thank you, Janet! Glad you can hear my voice–I look to your writing to hear yours. Miss you!

  4. Greta Holt on May 8, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    What wonderful, age-warrior, pro-humanity writing! I grew up around ‘old people’ because the Mennonites had a number of retirement homes. The old folks were as varied in old age as they were as younger people. Those who were kind and interested in life remained so, unless cruel dementia took their minds early. Even then, they were remembered as they had been.
    Great post and comment answers, Diane.

    • Diane Gottlieb on May 8, 2020 at 2:54 pm

      Thank you, Greta, for your kind words and for sharing your own experience.

  5. Sherry Danner on May 4, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    “When old people, or any people, are valued less than the almighty dollar, the real loser is not the economy but our humanity.”
    YES!! This is such an important message.
    Thank you, Diane!

    • Diane Gottlieb on May 4, 2020 at 2:46 pm

      That is the message, always. Thanks, Sherry.

    • Joann weiss on May 5, 2020 at 12:48 am

      So true Diane . ❤️

      • Diane Gottlieb on May 5, 2020 at 1:00 am

        Thank you, Joann. XO

  6. Laura Malfa on May 4, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    Wow, I had no idea this was happening to this degree. Thanks for an enlightening article Diane!

    • Diane Gottlieb on May 4, 2020 at 1:34 pm

      Unfortunately, Laura, it is. While this pandemic is bringing out the best in many, it is also bringing out the divisiveness in others, and the lack of sensitivity (I’m being kind with that characterization) is frightening. I just heard last night that a much younger friend of Korean descent was on a walk when a car started honking and honking. My friend stopped, thinking the driver might have needed some help, and the driver just screamed out the window,”Are you happy? This is all your fault!”

      There are protesters carrying Confederate flags and signs spouting Nazi slogans (along with loaded AK-47s) demanding their “freedom.” I haven’t even mentioned the major disparities in the numbers of those negatively effected by COVID–so much higher in communities of color.

      I hope one thing that will come out of this troubled time is that we will take a long, hard look at how we treat each other–now that underlying biases are being brought out into the open–and we will become less tolerant–of hatred. Those disparities that have been visible all along have been made even more so. My great wish is that once laid bare, we will answer with love, compassion–and action–and value every life as precious.

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