"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Trump And Biden, Old Guys Running For President–Are We Really Ready For Senior Moments And ‘What Was That Again’?

Peter Langley was an alte kocker way past seventy and feeling his age. “If I get run over by a bus”, he said, “the news story will read, ‘Elderly Man Hit By Bus’”, lamenting the fact that the article would not bother to mention his profession, his generous contributions, his causes, or his adventures.  He felt quite supernumerary, perhaps not on the margins but close. 

The old adage about older and wiser might or might not be true.  Langley had led a life of more than the usual ups and downs, and had survived African civil wars, recessions, the Cold War, Vietnam, and the Hong Kong flu so he indeed had something to say about human nature, history, and culture; but was anybody listening? Doubtful.  The issues of today – racial unrest, gender confusion, climate change, and income inequality – implied his younger colleagues had little to do with his particular past.  Life in post-colonial India, hardcore corruption in Big Man African regimes, malaria, dengue, and lovers were interesting enough, but insignificant.

Well, of course they were.  When looked at through the lens of history, these very American concerns, were but blips on the universal radar; and if anything was insignificant, they were.  Plus ça change was never more true, and today’s fol-de-rol and up-in-arms protests will be seen by future generations as interesting side shows, if that.

All this is neither here nor there, for no matter who believes what, Peter Langley’s opinion didn’t count for a hill of beans.  Old people should retire to Florida, relax in the sun, and go quietly. 

Image result for images old people retired in florida

Peter was unconcerned.  After all the young should have their day, repeat history but do it passionately and unreasonably, and be left alone by the likes of alte kockers like him.  By the time they get to be his age, they will have come to the same conclusions as he had, so why the fuss?

There were other more important things on Peter’s mind such as dying, something in his earlier years he never thought about; in his later years he shoved under the rug; but now approaching his eighth decade, he could no longer avoid or dismiss.  ‘Too soon old, too late schmart’, the old Jews in the neighborhood kept telling him when he was still sowing his wild oats well into his sixties.  “A girl friend? At your age?”, said Abe Birnbaum who had hung up his shingle, began rereading Kant and Heidegger, quoting Third Kings and Ruth, and playing golf and couldn’t imagine why Peter should be noodling with a woman half his age.  “Nothing but heartache”, he said; but Peter was not listening, too busy validating the old sex drive. 

Image result for images kant

It was not because of Abe Birnbaum’s advice but because of the usual circumstances – increasingly suspicious wife, increasingly demanding girlfriend – that Peter agreed with himself that as lucky as he had been to find this lovely girl under the Christmas tree, enough was enough.  Time to rein in, pull up, and like down in the chaise lounge.

Besides, he was beginning, like his old Ford, to show his age.  Rattles in the chest, replaced ball joints creaky, vision inaccurate, and hearing a thing of the past. 

My iron-clad case is rusty

My open-and-shut one mildewed

The vent to my emotions not working

My heart strings frayed through

I'm a pitiable mess

My body needs overhaul

Prices are rising, and I'm surmising

I'll not be fixed at all (Anonymous)

He made more trips to the doctor than to his local bar; spent more hours in the bathroom than at the gym; and more time wobbling up and down stairs and in and out of cars than he did on any garden path.  He was not exactly a wreck –  compared to his classmates who if still alive were barely hanging on – but definitely closer to the scrap heap than to young Laura from Accounting.

So what was it that made Donald Trump and Joe Biden so anxious to be President; and shouldn’t the younger electorate a) feel cheated that no one even close to their generation had made it through the primaries; and b) feel concerned that who ever landed in the White House might not 1) make it out; or 2) if he did, he would have to be helped.

Image result for Joe Biden Looking Old Photographs

Bishop Berkeley, the famous metaphysician and phenomenologist, asked “If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” If the tree makes no sound, and that anything beyond an individual’s consciousness and perception does not exist, then everything ceases to exist when one dies.  Hence legacy is irrelevant.   Hindus believe that the world is maya or illusion anyway, so such metaphysical arguments have no resonance.  There is no question in their minds that no matter how you slice it, worry about legacy is nothing but pure vanity. Yet, Trump and Biden, with apparently little thought about their insignificance and no thought about their existential future, push on to the top. 

Image result for images dancing siva

Recently Donald Trump was videoed tentatively making his way down a steep ramp.  This made news, of course, but anyone over the age of seventy who looks first for the railing, second for a nearby arm, and never farther than the next step has to sympathize with the President.  Four more years means four more years of wobbling here and there, saluting but not rising to meet foreign dignitaries in the Oval Office, and getting out his ear trumpet for Cabinet meetings.  

Image result for images trump wobbly walking down ramp

All well and good, no problem.  FDR who was crippled from polio and couldn’t walk a step managed just fine, negotiating America’s WWII war effort and post-war European relationships, the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl Okies; and so Trump in his second term will manage.

But there is the Biden problem.  His mental slips are quite common in anyone of his advanced age.  They may mean nothing at all since he rarely made complete sense even when he was in the Senate, a garrulous, happy talker whose mistakes were simply the result of exuberance; but, given that he is a deep alte kocker – i.e. not one just past 65 but very close to 80 – there may be cause for concern.  The campaign, whenever it begins in earnest, will hide his slips.  No politician ever gets down into the weeds of policy on the stump – Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign had saying nothing down to a science – so Biden will not have to make sense, only get his talking points across.

Donald Trump, whose circus show has never been anything but clowning, acrobatics, and lion-taming will overwhelm poor Biden who will amble along.  No one really takes him seriously.  He was never a heavyweight in Congress, and little more than a shill for Obama as Vice President.  People will vote for him because they hate Donald Trump and because he has begun to endorse the Far Left agenda – not because of his intellect, his intelligence, or his ability.

So Trump’s bombast and vaudevillian genius may well hide any more subtle mental lapses. To all intents and purposes, the President is still as smart, quick, and mentally agile as ever, but you never know. Actually Peter Langley knows.  While he can pull up the names of minor Shakespearean actors and scenes from Two Gentlemen from Verona, a little-known play that nobody remembers, his mind goes blank on the name of the actor in the film he saw last night, the name of his cousin’s husband, the town nearby Wellfleet on the Cape where he ate oysters and drank beer last summer.  The names did eventually come to him with a few mnemonic gymnastics (reciting the alphabet, imagining the movie or the oysters), but still the pregnant pauses were unsettling.  What would happen if he drew such blanks while teaching his alte kocker adult education classes this Fall? The old folks would certainly understand and forgive him, but they would certainly see him in a fading light.

His hearing had always been acute; but recently he seemed to be hearing through foam rubber.  His vision had always been sharp, but now, even with the best correction possible, he had trouble making out what was what only a few feet ahead.  He was functional, more or less intact, but necessarily failing; and of course there was absolutely, positively nothing he could do about it.

So as much as hated all the goofball wannabees running in the primaries, he would have had to vote for one of them rather than either one of the two old guys on the ticket now.  Youth should have its day.  OK, none of the candidates are John F Kennedy who was only forty-three when he took office, Theodore Roosevelt (42), or Bill Clinton (46); but still youth has its advantages.  Better to have a young, fully functioning mind and agile intellect in a mediocre President if you can’t have a really smart one.

This all may be moot, for someone 40 cannot possibly imagine what it is like to be 80; but Peter and his friends knew quite well and took solace only in that both men would likely choose young Vice Presidents.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.