Mainstream newspaper columnists seem to be having an off week. John Tierney of The New York Times did a lazy job in his column yesterday on Social Security, and Abigail Trafford at the Washington Post was a letdown too, on the same day.
Ms. Trafford is the only columnist at a major U.S. newspaper writing regularly, though not often enough, about aging. Her column this week addresses age stereotyping, using as her jumping-off point the example of a dumb comment by a 20-year-old about older drivers being "soooo slow":
“But what if the ‘they’ in such a quote were African American postal workers? Sooooo slow! Or girls in algebra class? Sooooo slow!
“Instead of chuckles there would be outrage and charges of racism and sexism…
“Lawrence H. Summers, the president of Harvard University, nearly lost his job after he crossed the ‘ism’ line with his insensitive remarks about the scientific ability of women.”
- - Washington Post, 14 June 2005
Ms. Trafford then hits – all too briefly – a few highlights of the prevailing American ageism:
“Geezer-bashing is socially acceptable….Chronological diversity is not regarded as part of cultural diversity.
“…the social virus of ageism is endemic. It harms older Americans by unfairly portraying them with negative characteristics and marginalizing them in society…
“Ageism also harms younger people by exacerbating their fears of growing old.”
All important points we’ve been making at TimeGoesBy for more than a year now, but by sandwiching them between several paragraphs of what is a minor, ageist indignity about the driving habits of older people when there are so many serious consequences such as employment and healthcare discrimination, Ms. Trafford diminishes the issue and comes dangerously close to making ageism a joke.
It would be good if Ms. Trafford, in her unique position at a wide-circulation newspaper that gets more attention than this little blog, would assert a bit more muscle on issues of aging than she does in this column.