UPDATE - 16 September 2006: Matt Stoller has left a note (below in comments) stating that he did not write the statement about elders that I quoted and that it is a reader’s email. I apologize for the mis-attribution. However, the statement is not cited as reader’s email, so I could only assume it was Matt writing. Additionally, it was presented without lead-in or comment on its offensiveness.
No one knows about most of the bigotry that goes on because it is silent. There is enough legislation in place and public pressure as a result of it that few dare to openly express prejudice toward others.
Instead, they discriminate by exclusion and victims may suspect but can't be certain they have been passed over due to their race, gender, age or sexual orientation. It happens every day: a person, although qualified, is not hired or promoted; when a buyer who is deemed undesirable makes a formal offer, a house is suddenly withdrawn from the market; a reservation at a restaurant has been lost - oh, so sorry for the mistake, but there are no tables.
Some bigots, however, have no shame, publicly declaring their personal prejudice, often couching it as though they are bravely flouting convention or political correctness. Because we can't see the secret, silent bigotry, it is important to point fingers when the open kind appears.
Yesterday, Susan of Takoma Gardener left a comment here on TGB relating the conversation of a writer on The Charlie Rose Show who accused 83-year-old Viacom chairman, Sumner Redstone, of being impatient and impetuous for firing his Viacom CEO and, a week earlier, actor Tom Cruise. Susan continued:
“.. again and again he claimed it's related to [Redstone’s] advanced age, saying. ‘Pardon the ageism, but he's a cranky old man.’"
Hurray for Susan for also noting: “Using Ronni's test, imagine ‘Pardon the racism, but...’"
Naomi Dagen Bloom of A Little Red Hen blog alerted me to another shameless piece of open bigotry. She first found it at alternet.org from where it seems to have disappeared, but is still at its original blog, myDD.com.
The blogger, Matt Stoller, related the difficulties he had voting on Tuesday in the Maryland state primary. There were snags in using a computer poll book resulting in his uncertainty about whether his vote would be counted. Mr. Stoller concluded his piece with this:
“…the poll workers are volunteers who are retired or otherwise don't have regular jobs - lots of elderly people with bad eyesight, arthritic hands, and no computer experience, who have no difficulty at all with index cards but can't manage these touch screens.”
Mr. Stoller, as long as you have put stereotypes on the table, let's discuss the scores of retail clerks over the years - teens and 20-somethings with an attitude of bored superiority - who have not been capable of correctly operating the cash register and when, on occasion, it has broken, don't know how to figure the change when the computer doesn’t tell them how much money to return to me.
Shall I tell you too about how they hand over change with the paper money in my palm first and the coins on top so that it all falls on the counter and the floor? I'll take age-related debility any day over slacker incompetence.
But I digress...
Electronic voting is in its infancy. Even you acknowledge that the machines don’t work well to begin with, have rarely been adequately tested prior to voting day and may have been fiddled by partisans with ulterior motives. And yet you expect them to operate properly.
As to your characterization of old people: when you were a little boy, you drooled, pooped your pants at inopportune moments, ran screaming up and down aisles of stores and otherwise made a nuisance of yourself that disrupted the lives of everyone in your vicinity.
We – your parents, other relatives, parents’ friends and strangers too - overlooked your bad behavior because you were too young to know better. It is not unlikely a stranger saved your life when you ran, unheeding of your or anyone else’s safety, in front of a car.
Society and the community make allowances for and go out of their way to protect children who haven't learned yet what is dangerous or even just annoying to others.
Now that you are of voting age, you might consider returning the favor to elders. You are correct that in old age, eyesight dims, movement slows and arthritis hinders manipulation of paper, pens and computer touch screens in some elders. For many of those people, it is painful to stand or even sit all day on hard folding chairs to man the polling station where you vote. Yet they volunteer to do so.
As adults tolerated you in boyhood, it wouldn’t hurt you to spare a little time for the old person who believes in democracy enough to overcome those hindrances for a day so you can vote.
In fact, if you are so passionately concerned with democracy, as the title of your blog suggests you may be, you might use the time gained, while waiting for a slow-moving elder, to savor your participation in direct democracy instead of treating it like foul-tasting medicine to be swallowed as quickly as possible.
You might even give up a day’s pay in November to volunteer at a polling station. That way, you could participate even further in the direct democracy you claim to love and along the way, you could even pass on some of your smartypants computer knowledge to an old person so that in 2008, you won’t be delayed on your way to all that important stuff in your life that requires you to rush through voting.