Political correctness is a relatively recent term that is “used to describe some language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.” (From Wikipedia.) The proscription against giving offense has been getting stronger, and the list of “particular groups” has been getting longer. In my own life, I have tended to avoid giving offense to anyone from an early age. I did this without outside direction. This was partly because I have always thought that it was not nice, and partly because I didn’t want to get my ass kicked.
By now, Stephen Colbert saying that (redacted’s) mouth isn’t good for anything other than as Vladimir Putin’s “cock holster” gets a furious reaction. This even though (redacted) is himself so rude and offensive that no one should consider his feelings at all. The reactions came not only from the gay community, but also from conservatives in general and on anti-crudeness or blasphemy grounds from the overly sensitive. So we can be sure that Political Correctness can be expressed not only on protective grounds, but it may also mask an aggressive desire to condemn political opponents. Admirable flexibility, that.
But, P.C. We must be alert not to offend homosexuals (“faggots,” “. . . his butt plug came lose at this point”) lesbians (“dykes”), the handicapped (“retards,” people who “stu . . .stu . . . stutter,” “oh! I don’t know what I said!” [Donald Trump, mimicking cerebral palsy]), minorities (“beaners,” “rag-heads,” “sand-eaters”), Jews (“good with money”), and others. The list now includes fragile students at our universities who must be protected from “trigger words.” That just seems to me to be a doomed attempt to protect them from the true nature of the wider world, which is volatile and senselessly cruel.
I don’t mind this effort to be solicitous of the feelings of others, but I do wish that the program was more careful not to exclude groups from the protected circle who obviously qualify for our consideration.
At least one group is still fair game: the elderly.
(Disclaimer: If I am not elderly already, I will make the cut within six to eight weeks. These days, I don’t feel a day under 100.)
Here Donald Trump is a victim as well as a bully. He has dementia! (Never mind that he’s always been this way.) He can’t get it up! (Viagra jokes in general are offensive to older Americans.)
Jimmy Kimmel chose last week to follow his triumphant speech about his son’s difficult birth with a sketch called “the Cane Cane.” That would be a device that would prevent a dropped cane from falling to the floor. The bit featured Kimmel and others made up to look like old folks dropping their canes on the floor, and then having huge difficulties picking them up again. One faux old lady fell down on her face! Hilarious! (Not.)
The whole thing made my knees hurt just thinking about it. Believe me, picking a dime up off of the floor becomes a challenge at some point. There’s not a single thing funny about it, not after you reach that point, anyway.
These slurs and digs against the elderly are thrown around willy-nilly. Older Americans are routinely spoken of as though they were useless-eaters. There are casual suggestions that the elderly are hogging all of the assets, you know, the things that they worked so hard to acquire when they were strong in an effort to avoid destitution in their old age. They are presented as a drag on the social-safety-net, as though there were still such a thing! Same goes for the medical system, the elderly cost us a fortune with their damned maladies! There’s anger and viciousness in these in this treatment of our senior-citizens, and it doesn’t make much sense.
Bear in mind that the elderly are just like those other protected groups. Like them, the elderly are our own beloved family members, friends and neighbors. They are our fellow citizens. They raised subsequent generations, worked and paid taxes, fought in wars, and created art and music. Is no one disposed to be grateful?
More importantly, they are us. They are me, soon, and they are you, in the near or distant future. That’s if you are lucky. “As you are, so I once was; as I am, so you will be,” said the statue of a skeleton in the graveyard.
Fate Has Your Number
People under forty-years-old are the worst offenders. They, most of them, have not yet achieved the basic understanding that old age will someday overtake them. Perhaps they are just ignoring the possibility, or perhaps they think that diet and exercise will prevent the worst of it. Either way, many of them feel a misplaced sense of immunity to the problem.
But no one is immune, and no regimen of diet and exercise can protect you. We are, for better or worse, machines. And just like the best maintained car, if our machinery is run at full power, all day, every day, it will someday wear all the way out and die on the road. It’s no different for us. Systems from skin, to heart, to eyes, wear out over time. Our very skeletons wear out! Knees and hips only have so many shocks that they can take. Shoulders, elbows, fingers, all of that friction adds up. Even if you take superb care of your teeth and drink your milk there will be bone loss in your jaws and your teeth will suffer. No vitamins or supplements can prevent some degree of osteoarthritis, eventually. There’s a reason that the doctors call these things, “normal degenerative changes.”
One day a key system fails, or a terrible disease overtakes us, and the writing on the wall bursts into flames, “it’s (almost) over, Johnny!” And that’s only if you didn’t get hit by a bus in the meantime. No one is guaranteed the “Golden Years” of retirement.
Sometimes I wonder if these whippersnappers are just whistling past the graveyard to calm their fears about getting old. Then I remember, no, they just don’t know shit about life.
Someday they’ll figure it out, just like those of us on the ebb-tide of life have done. They’ll undergo the same process of education that we did. I sincerely hope for their sake that following generations are gentler with them than they are being with us.
A Generous Offer
So can we just put the “elderly” on the protected list? Can we cool it with the jokes about Depends and Viagra? Jokes about canes and memory loss?
Geezers have feelings, too.
In return for you all laying off the wise cracks, we older Americans would be glad to stop asking you troublesome questions like:
“Who was president in the 1980s?”
“Who did we fight in World War II?”
“Who won the Civil War?”
“Which country gave America the Statue of Liberty?”
And, the really tricky one,
“Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?”
“Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?”