Monday, August 29, 2016

On Aging

Bette Davis famously said “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” “Resistance is futile. Your life, as it has been, is over,” said The Borg when they (it?) first encountered the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Both sentiments precisely describe how I feel about getting older, being old. Actually, I don’t mind being old per se. I’m 64 and don’t let anyone tell you 60 is the New 50, because it’s not. Sixty is what it ever was: old. No, what I mind (besides the aches & pains and genteel poverty) is feeling obsolete, disrespected, and not knowing, liking or understanding (or all three) the young and the new.

I know that not everyone who’s 60+ feels this way. Lots of older people – those who’ve kept themselves fit, saved enough money to have disposable income, and have younger  people in their lives (e.g., kids and grandkids) feel very differently. Neither do those “oldsters” who are still working and/or have made a successful effort to form new relationships, find (or create) new endeavors, and especially embrace new technology and social media. But that’s not me. I’ve spent over 15 years feeling generally mad (angry not crazy), sad, and fearful of the outdoors (which is why I rarely leave the Tower).

With only a few exceptions, everyone I’ve ever loved (family, friends, and men I had resembling “partners”) have either died, relocated, or rejected me. I’ve rejected quite a few people myself, so I guess you reap what you sow or what goes around comes around or whatever. I’m able to accept that – not always graciously – as what happens when time marches on.

What I can’t seem to do is forget the pleasantries and civilities of the past, accept the speed and crassness of the present, and emotionally feel my age – which is to say, in my head I feel like I’m still in my 20s. I also don’t recognize a lot. For example, I don’t know today’s “celebrities.” I’ve heard some of their names, but for the most part I wouldn’t know them if I fell over them on the street. It’s my own fault, because I don’t watch reality TV or network TV, go to (or rent) new movies or listen to new music. I’ve tried a little harder with the music, but I have no patience with these breathy-sounding girls, mediocre melodies, and very poorly crafted lyrics (when I can make them out), and I didn’t like Rap/Hip-Hop when it first reared its angry head in the 80s; I sure don’t like it any better now.

I have an especially hard time with TV commercials. Most of the time I don’t know what they’re selling and all cars look alike to me. There are so many ads between snippets of Show that I literally forget what I’m watching. And except for the ads for medical alert systems, mobility scooters (both of which I have), medications with dangerous and ludicrous side effects, stair chairs, and incontinence pads, none of them are directed at my “demographic.” If I were a man (or had one in my life), I’d include the commercials for erectile dysfunction pills. Other than that, nobody wants old people’s business.

Nobody speaks my language either – or any language for that matter, really. Everything is an acronym or an emoji or slang. When things go viral that’s a good thing. When you give something a thumb-up/”like” that’s important. So are images. Images are everything. Words largely don’t matter – except for a few. Apparently anyone who does anything, especially in front of a camera, is an icon and almost everything is iconic, awesome, and genius. But there are double-meanings I don’t understand. I know that to hack into a technological system is a bad thing. But then there are “hacks” to do things – genius hacks for scrambling eggs, putting on your shoes, etc. I don’t get it.

I also don’t know what people are – particularly hipsters. I know they’re not hippies and they’re certainly not the hipsters of the 1950s. I don’t even know if being a hipster is a good or bad thing to be. I do know what a helicopter parent is (obnoxious and ridiculous), and I know what their children are (obnoxious and doomed). I also know that tiny houses are the big new thing, that all homes should be open-concept and have areas instead of rooms (and everything else is “outdated”). I know that sitting is the new smoking (and here I am, sitting and smoking), quinoa is not pronounced key-no-na, açaí is a berry that didn’t previously exist, and lots of things are “aspirational.”

In irritating addition, women who are a size 10 are fat and should be aspiring to be a size 0 (which no one seems to see as anti-woman, but women don’t want to be called feminists anymore, so who cares?), that phones are smart even though you can’t hear a conversation on them, and it’s perfectly alright to go out for dinner with a group of people and have everyone be on their phones instead of talking to each other.

I do know that, like me, having buttons on “devices” is obsolete; you’re supposed to smear screens with your fingers. I also know that life isn’t worth living unless one has many devices, although I don’t know why one needs a laptop and a tablet, but then I don’t really know what a tablet is for, how streaming works, or why some folks say TV is also obsolete even though they’re still getting bigger and bigger.

All I know is I’m very confused, and this aging thing is hard. I could go on, but this post is already very long and any more than 140 characters for anything is…well, unnecessary – like paper and wires and shopping anywhere except on the Internet. And in the final analysis, I know that resistance is futile and my life, as it has been, is over. But as Maurice Chevalier sang: I’m so glad I’m not young anymore. If you don’t know who he was or where he sang that, smear one of your screens and do a search.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Overview From The Tower

There’s an expression in AA: “Going to the hardware store for milk. It’s about reaching out to someone in your life for something you fervently want or urgently need – usually the romantic partner who’s wrong for you and incapable of providing what you need, but it also applies to dysfunctional families and bad friends. When you do this repeatedly – with the same wrong person or same type of wrong person, that’s an emotional/ psychological issue I’m not going to get into here.

What I am saying is that this expression explains why some people misguidedly support Donald Trump. Now, given their legitimately strong, desperate, understandable desire for major political change and substantial economic improvement, I could address the pathos and confusion that has led to their pointless trip. But since we’re confronted with the very real possibility of an ignorant, arrogant, prejudiced sociopath being elected President of the United States, I really don’t have time for such compassion.

There’s also the sobering fact that many people are going to precisely the right person for what they want: someone who will empower their assorted prejudices as well as undo the social changes they find repugnant and threatening. This is the issue we not only do have time for, but must confront if we want America to be [relatively] sane, current, and both nationally and globally functional.

It’s ironic but true – and I’ve said this before: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were flip sides of the same coin. Both of their followers want a political revolution, economic equity, and significant social change. It’s just that one team wants it progressively, inclusively and lovingly, and the other wants it regressively, exclusively and hatefully. And in this instance, the latter won the candidacy and the former didn’t.

I’ve always admired Bernie Sanders’ ideas and courage as an Independent senator, even though he was often the sole voice of reason and solution, only dimly heard (and frequently ignored) through the raucous din of a complete lack of political bipartisanship and remarkably uncreative, highly compromised “leadership.” I was a Bernie Presidential supporter for about five minutes but gave that up because I knew that this country was never going to follow-up The First Black President with a Socialist Jew. Most Americans think democratic socialism is communism by another name, and anti-Semitism in America is still very much alive and well.

So that leaves us with Hillary Clinton, who I’m perfectly happy with, indeed increasingly happy with. It’s really a mystery to me why so many people dislike and distrust her. I  know she’s done things in the course of her political career that weren’t on the up-and-up, but our political system has never been on the up-and-up – and she learned how to function within it. What makes her so especially terrible? She lied? She stood by her philandering husband? Benghazi? Her high-priced speaker’s fees? The fucking emails?

(Not for nothing, but government communications technology is so bad, so outdated, she could have opened an AOL email account, let alone use a high-tech private server and still not done any harm.) Now she’s a “bigot,” as well as allowing the Clinton Foundation to have [unspecified] politically influential super-power? Are you kidding me? Do Democrats, Independents, and rational Republicans (okay, that’s an oxymoron,  but still…) not see that in the tradition of Great Lies Repeated Often Enough, Trump’s signature “Crooked Hillary” rant has seeped into their heads?

Listen. We have two choices. A shrewd, dangerous madman or an imperfect but highly intelligent, experienced, basically decent woman who in fact has been positively influenced by Bernie Sanders. She’s not a political revolutionary, but she also won’t sail us off the edge of a flat earth. The Green Party’s until-recently-unheard-of Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson are diversions we can’t afford this year.

Not voting is a political petulance we also can’t afford. For many Americans, the ability to vote has been severely compromised or outright eliminated by Congressional redistricting, State-established voter suppression laws, and a Supreme Court that decided this would be a good time to decimate the Voting Rights Act.

Everyone in their right mind who can vote must vote and we must vote for Hillary Clinton, because not allowing Donald Trump to become President is the only issue that matters. You can go to the hardware store for a progressive political revolution another time. And while you’re there, you can pick up some milk.