As the debate on the fiscal cliff was winding down toward the deadline earlier this week, Representative Steve LaTourette (R–OH) is said to have told his Congressional colleagues:
“We should not take a package put together by a bunch of sleep-deprived octogenarians on New Year’s Eve.”
Unable to contain his glee, Ezra Klein - the overexposed Washington Post blogger, Bloomberg columnist and MSNBC analyst who has a facility for regurgitating huge amounts of information without the time, patience or depth (take your pick) for useful interpretation – tweeted this:
The best part -well, of course. What good is an ageist quip without piling on further? There are many ways to mock those we disagree with, dislike or want to diminish in the eyes of others but it is amazing how often old folks “jokes” are first choice.
No one ever characterizes the young or mid-aged in such a stereotyped manner.
But it's not only so-called jokes. Everyday language about old people in Washington often belittles us too. Just yesterday morning on one of the political chat shows, Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla) who is also chair of the Democratic National Committee said that “we must take care of our seniors.”
Our seniors. It's a common phrase among politicians, particularly the ones who mean well toward us. Like others in Washington, President Barack Obama frequently speaks of “our seniors” too. It's as though we are the nation's pets who, like our dogs, cats and birds, need the benevolence of our "owners" to make the important decisions for us.
The politicians aren't alone. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow, Chuck Todd (who I generally like) and many other media figures who specialize in politics regularly disparage elders with one-liners, rolling eyes and general dismissiveness they believe is acceptable.
And it is. Because no one ever calls them on it. Some elders don't even recognize any of this as ageism because it is not as shocking as the N-word. But it is equally damaging.
Certainly you and I, at our ages, don't need to be told that those who intend harm to a certain group of people, first demonize them. Keep that in mind when the “entitlement” fight comes up soon.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: The Magic of Thanksgiving