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Mortality

[EDITORIAL REQUEST: I have a project in mind for Time Goes By that will, at its conclusion, benefit all readers, but now involves only the oldest readers. If you are 76 or older, would you raise your hand by sending me an email. Just click "Contact" in the upper left sidebar. I'll then get back to you in a day or so with details.]

category_bug_journal2.gif On Monday, I published a piece I titled Mysterious New Feelings but it was a poor header. The feelings aren’t new to me or even mysterious. They are just being presented recently in a different manner than when I was younger.

It would better have been titled Mortality which, of course, is the central dilemma of life. Although it plagues us from the time we are old enough to understand that dying means our existence ends, it comes more sharply into focus when we enter elderhood.

As when I’ve written of mortality in the past, one theme in the comments this time was acceptance. Many of us elders don’t much fear death, but are terrified of dying - particularly a lingering, painful dying.

Another theme is sadness, particularly for those we leave behind, of not seeing grandchildren grow up or not wanting our loved ones to be sad. But we can’t affect other people’s feelings and we know from the losses we have experienced that they will be sad and I think that’s all right. Sadness, along with the every kind of hard knock in life, is essential to each of our beings.

And they will move on, as they should, as they must, just as we have, remembering us in their own way.

It was gratifying to know that others too have fleeting moments of disbelief, difficulty believing that something as solid as we are now in the world can – will – disappear. But my stronger feeling, as I mentioned Monday, is the rightness of death – a flower is born, blossoms, matures and then fades away making room for the next generation. All around us in nature, it is thus and no one has presented me with a good reason to believe it is otherwise for humans.

Sometimes I have envied those whose religious belief allows them to anticipate heaven, hell, 24 virgins and all the other variations of afterlife, because it guarantees continuation of one’s self as we know ourselves with all our memories, experiences and ego intact. That has never worked for me, but neither does too much contemplation of oblivion.

Now and then, however, there is a stark reminder, as when an old friend dies which happened to me recently. When the gathering of the clan, the funeral and formal ceremonies of mourning are done, I can’t help wondering when it will be my turn to go and then thoughts of oblivion intrude for awhile.

I’m a practical sort who doesn’t spend too much time on what I can’t change. One of my defenses against occasional dark nights of the soul is asking myself, “How hard can it be to die? After all, every person, genius or dolt, who ever walked the earth has done it.”

I don’t mean to take our mortality lightly; we all struggle with it - but the question both amuses and comforts me. And I can then get back to living.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon McKinney takes on the question of minor Embarrassing Moments we are all familiar with.]


Age and Routine

[EDITORIAL NOTE: In his weekly Gray Matters column in Newsday last Saturday, Saul Friedman explained why he now thinks age is a lot more important to the election than he did a few months ago, and he was kind enough to quote some bits from Time Goes By. Following on our discussion last week about age and Senator McCain, Saul's Age and the Presidential Candidates adds a good deal thought to the issue.]

category_bug_journal2.gif A long time ago on this blog, I wrote a piece arguing against the common idea that old people are stuck in their ways. We can and do easily make changes, I said, but not before we see the need:

“We have had decades of making poor choices,” I wrote, “to arrive at what are the best and most satisfying [answers] for us. New is not always better and if it is, old people have had more years than younger ones yet to make that judgment.”

We’re willing to change, but first you have to give us a good reason.

That was in spring of 2005. Time passes, stuff happens, things change. And although I believed that three-year-old blog post was still valid, recently I seemed to have become, in at least one way, an old stick-in-the-mud: daily routine.

By routine, I mean the time I wake and the time I go to bed, what I do in the morning versus afternoon or evening, when I go out and when I stay in – in fact, it pretty well covers every aspect of my life. Not that I don’t adjust it as needed, but in general, it’s a fairly rigid schedule.

I like it that way because when the schedule is disrupted by accident or design, it can take a day and even more to recover my energy. And when I’m sleeping or resting when there are better things to do, I am not a happy old lady. I don’t like wasting time nowadays – there’s no telling how little I have left.

When I first noticed that I had become a stickler for routine, I was embarrassed to find myself becoming a walking, talking old person cliché and I was chagrined to realize that I’d have to take back what I had previously said about the flexibility of old people.

Then I had some second thoughts.

In his first post here, The TGB Geriatrician, Dr. Bill Thomas, wrote of the adaptability of old people:

“An older person wakes up to a new body with new requirements and limitations not once, but many times. This reality batters our relationship to the status quo. Mental, physical and spiritual changes require elders to develop and deploy a string of enterprising strategies and subtle adaptations.”

Dr. Thomas gave some excellent examples of adaptations elders employ and when I re-read his column, I realized that I’m not the cliché I thought I was. Instead, I am adapting to my physical circumstances as they change and develop in directions younger people don’t yet need to consider.

It undoubtedly appears to others who care to notice that I am stuck in a boring, unchanging routine, but it is the opposite. I keep daily tasks and needs on a schedule to leave me the energy to pursue whatever interests I wish to follow in the free time the scheduling gives me.

That, I think, is the essence of flexibility – adjusting to new realities as they present themselves and elders get a lot of opportunities for that.

All of which gets me off the hook of having to take back what I said three years ago…

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Camille Koepnick Shaffer tells us how a recent journey went slightly awry in The Trip to Cavaillon - May 2008.]


Mysterious New Feelings

category_bug_journal2.gif In recent months, it has occasionally occurred to me that one day I won’t be here. It is different and more mysterious than the intellectual acceptance and possible disbelief in eventual death. It is more complicated than that.

It is sensation more than thought. It happens at random moments, most frequently in the shower: "Here is my naked body," I realize with some wonder, almost as though I’ve not noticed before the physical essence of me, and "how could it be that its solidness along with all the thoughts and feelings within it will stop existing?"

There is no panic or fear. It is more a sense of mild astonishment that this body, my body (because there is a good deal of ego involved in this phenomenon) that takes up space in the world, makes footprints in the snow, a person whose efforts cause things to happen and responds to outside forces, will stop doing that.

It has happened sometimes when preparing breakfast with the bowl I use for cereal. It’s nothing special, this bowl. It cost maybe $5.00 some years ago and it is undistinguished. But its shape, color and heft give me pleasure. How odd, I think, that it is unlikely to be used with the same affection when I am not here. How can strongly-held attachments just end? They feel too real, as solid as my body in the shower for that to come about.

But that is only the first half of the sensation. Simultaneously and to the opposite, I know - in that way of knowing that has nothing to do with acquired knowledge or experience – that it is fitting for my body, my thoughts, my feelings, my affections, to be ephemeral, to stop when my number of years reaches its limit. And for a few moments, that great, tragic drama of life - death - is more than acceptable; it is as it should be.

If I were inclined to hippie-dippy explanations (which I am not), I might say this feeling is a glow of cosmic understanding, a grace, a gift - except that it doesn't stay with me. Later, when the "glow" has left, I'm not nearly so high-minded about the suitability of dying.

I’m not explaining this well because the sensation is hardly thought at all, not in the way words can be easily put to it. It comes over me, lasts for a short while and leaves. Solitude is apparently necessary, and simple activity – bathing, preparing food and sitting on my deck late at night in the dark. There is an ineffable quality to it, like fairy dust. It cannot be summoned – I’ve tried. It arrives from some other place in its own time, always unexpectedly, and settles over me softly.

Questions: Does it happen to others? Is it real or is there some kind of slippage in my brain synapses? Have I had sensations like this before and not taken notice? Is this a function of getting older, of making peace with one’s mortality? Or something else?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, the winner of the August Storytelling Excellence Award.]


Sunday Election Issues - 7 September 2008

category_bug_politics.gif This Sunday post is a collection of links to elderblog stories about the issues that are important to understand in making our choices on who to vote for in the November election. You can read the original post announcing this feature here.

Palin as Political Distraction
From Sylvia Kirkwood of The View From Over the Hill : The Requirements of Liberty

Political Propaganda
From Gary White of Having Fun Until I Die: Slogans

Review of Andrew Bacevich’s Provocative New Book
From Citizen K: The Limits of Power

More on Sarah Palin
From Elaine Frankonis of Kalilily Time: Sarah Palin: “Phyllis Schlafly Only Younger”

Republican Strategy
From Cynthia Samuels of Don’t Gel Yet: Return of the Culture Wars – But Did They Ever Leave?

British View of McCain’s Convention Speech
Via Ronni Bennett: McCain Falls Back on His Biography as He Struggles

On Hypocrisy
From Jon Stewart of The Daily Show [5:41 minutes]


This Week in Elder News: 30 August 2008

In this regular weekend feature you will find links to news items from the preceding week related to elders and aging, along with whatever else catches my fancy that I think you might like to know. Suggestions are welcome with, however, no promises of publication.

Due to an extra-busy few days and taking time now for a friend who is visiting for a long weekend, there is no Elder News this week. If you come back tomorrow, there will be Sunday links to blogs about election issues.

Meanwhile, do stop by The Elder Storytelling Place to vote for your favorite story in the August Excellence in Storytelling Award. The ballot is in the right sidebar. Voting closes tomorrow, Sunday, at midnight.


Age and John McCain: Judgment

See also: Age and John McCain - Part 1and Age and John McCain - Part 2.

category_bug_politics.gif After the past two days, I intended something light and fun to take us into the weekend, but a number of commenters raised an important point that I have not directly addressed in this discussion of Senator McCain and age: judgment.

Assessing judgment is a tougher call than health, policy positions and factual mistakes because it is more subjective, bringing together in our minds all the speeches, interviews, reactions to events and overall demeanor we have seen in candidates.

So this post is entirely subjective and I’m curious about your own subjective responses to Senator McCain after 19 months of intense campaigning on which to base them.

Throughout the campaign, there has been a continuing undercurrent of mean-spiritedness from McCain that is worrisome. He is frequently testy when asked a question he doesn’t like. For years, the press gave the senator a pass, rarely questioning him closely about his positions and contradictions.

Recently the press, who you and I must rely on to report the facts and ask the hard questions for us, has stepped up their criticism of McCain whose response has been to issue blistering condemnations of the press, cancel a scheduled interview with Larry King, and there is that peculiarly snarly interview with Time magazine.

This goes along with the growing number of reports about McCain’s temper from people who have known and worked with him over the years – that he flies off the handle easily and viciously. Not the temperament I want in a president who must deal with a world more volatile than it may ever have been.

Senator McCain’s response to the tricky Russia/Georgia conflict was one of immediate bellicosity, and it was further disturbing to discover that one of his paid top campaign aides is, simultaneously, a paid lobbyist for Georgia leaving me wondering whose interests he supports in his campaign advisory position, that of Georgia or the U.S. That's not the kind of judgment I want to see perpetuated in Washington.

Finally, there is the choice of an unsuitable vice president who, among other questionable positions (banning library books is a big one for me) has zero experience in national and international politics. To defend Governor Palin’s lack of international experience, Senator McCain made this monumentally stupid statement on ABC News a couple of days ago:

GIBSON: But as you know, the questions revolve really around foreign policy experience. Can you honestly say you feel confident having someone who hasn't traveled outside the United States until last year, dealing with an insurgent Russia, with an Iran with nuclear ambitions, with an unstable Pakistan, not to mention the war on terror?

MCCAIN: Sure. And one of the key elements of America's national security requirements are energy. She understands the energy issues better than anybody I know in Washington, D.C., and she understands. Alaska is right next to Russia. She understands that.

Oh, please. How can anyone in the U.S. want a president who asks us to believe that line of thinking or who believes it himself.

There is no way to know if Senator McCain’s general belligerence, vindictiveness and, in my opinion, pandering choice of a running mate totally unprepared to be president should there be the need, is age-related. But combined with his age and the ongoing, overwhelming number of factual mistakes and/or memory lapses, I don’t believe his judgment can be trusted – even if I supported his policies.

What about you?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Elizabeth Westmark watches with compassion the decline of A Signature Woman.]


Age and John McCain - Part 2

(Age and John McCain - Part 1 is here)

category_bug_politics.gif Yesterday we walked through an overview of some potential debilities associated with being old and took a look at what is known of Senator John McCain’s health in relation to his age.

Today, we will discuss some of his mistakes, misstatements and flip-flops to see if we think they should be of concern in man who may sit in the most powerful (though diminished over the past eight years) office in the western world.

With mainstream media and everyone online concentrated this week on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Senator McCain's past and ongoing errors - deliberate and/or unintentional - may seem like old news. But a constant problem in politics (and elsewhere in the culture) is that everyone seems to have the memory of a gnat; politicians hope for it, promote it, depend on it.

It is our job as responsible voters and citizens to weigh the words of candidates, compare them to facts, ferret out inconsistencies, assess their capability and, allowing a degree forbearance for human fallibility, evaluate their judgment and decide on their suitability for the highest position of leadership in the land. In those respects, this is not old news.

MISSTATEMENTS
The primary season for the 2008 election was the longest in history. Day after day for 18 months, candidates of both parties criss-crossed the country often hitting several cities a day where they were required to be energetic, sharp, on message and make clear, compelling arguments for their positions while ingratiating themselves with voters to convince us they are the right man or woman for the job.

The pace is grueling at any age and on that alone, a certain number of minor mistakes is inevitable and understandable. If a candidate says “Iran” when he means “Iraq,” it’s not important – once or twice – particularly if it happens in a list of issues and not in a sustained speech or interview about the countries.

On numerous occasions during the campaign, even after the error was pointed out to him, Senator McCain has referred to Czechoslovakia, a country that has not existed since 1993. No one in a position to vote on legislation involving foreign nations should misspeak in the same way so frequently. Still, it’s worth giving him the benefit of the doubt on this one.

In July, when asked about Afghanistan, Senator McCain told Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America,

"I think it's serious…It's a serious situation, but there's a lot of things we need to do. We have a lot of work to do and I'm afraid it's a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq/Pakistan border."

Unless the entire country of Iran is considered the border between Iraq and Pakistan, this is not a misstatement a man who considers himself a Middle East expert should make, especially when discussing Afghanistan. Even so, I could be persuaded that it was a slip of the tongue.

But there are other kinds of errors Senator McCain makes that are more problematic.

MISTAKES
In March 2008, during a Middle East visit, Senator McCain twice said – in a radio interview and later in a news conference – that Iran is training al Qaeda members in Iraq, confusing Shiite Iran with Sunni al Qaeda. When a reporter questioned his assertion, McCain repeated it:

“Well, it’s common knowledge and has been reported in the media,” said McCain, “that Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. That’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.”

He would have stuck with it had not Senator Joe Lieberman stepped in to whisper the correction in his ear. With the specificity of his remarks, it is difficult to believe this was a misstatement by a tired campaigner, who claims expertise on the Middle East. It is, instead, ignorance or an inability to remember who the players are in the Iraq war. Either one is frightening in a U.S. senator, let alone a head of state who approves or rejects diplomatic and military plans based on his knowledge of the issue.

In July, attacking Senator Obama’s position on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Senator McCain made an error that that I find impossible to dismiss.

“This is the same organization,” he said, “that I voted to condemn as a terrorist organization when [the Kyl-Lieberman] amendment was on the floor of the United States Senate [in September 2007]. Senator Obama refused to vote.”

The problem in this case is that Senator McCain was not in Washington when that vote was taken; he was in New York. (Senator Obama was in New Hampshire, as CNN reported, so either they were both busy elsewhere or both “refused" to vote.)

Any reason that could be given for this “mistake” is hard to accept. Even granting that no candidate can reasonably be expected to recall what state he was in on a given campaign day months before, certainly any senator can remember if he was in the chamber to vote for a bill as widely discussed as Kyl-Lieberman was at the time. Plus, Senator McCain has voted so infrequently during the 18-month primary campaign, he should be able to remember which few he did vote for. So either Senator McCain believes he can lie and the press won’t notice or he believes he voted for the amendment. The first is foolish; the second may be age catching up with him.

It is impossible and not necessary to document all Senator McCain’s many factual mistakes, but one more bears mention. On 7 July, at a town hall meeting in Denver in answer to a question from a young woman about Social Security, John McCain said:

"Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed."

Similar to his Kyl-Lieberman mistake, either John McCain is ignorant of how Social Security is designed to work or he has forgotten. The first calls into question his knowledge of the most successful social program in history. The second makes it impossible to seriously consider his argument for privatizing Social Security – or not privatizing it, depending on which day he is speaking; he has claimed both. So his answer to the young woman is not credible as a simple misstatement.

FLIP-FLOPS
As I have written here in the past, I do not object to flip-flops on their face. Any leader should be expected to change his position when presented with new facts and/or events that make a previous position untenable. The problem with almost all issue flip-flops, however, is that politicians do not explain what brought them to a new conclusion, so they appear to be pandering and untrustworthy.

This is as true of Senator McCain as other politicians, but McCain has also claimed, sometimes, that his flip-flops are not new positions or that he never said what he did say before. There are a lot of videos on YouTube documenting his self-contradictions – too many to dismiss them all as memory lapses due to a busy campaign schedule.

The number of McCain flip-flops is astounding, so it's more efficient for me and you to let MSNBC’s Keith Olberman recount some of them. This was broadcast on 30 June 2008, and runs 3:31 minutes.

Until I undertook the research for this series, I didn’t realize how many inconsistencies there are in Senator McCain’s record and campaign. The question for voters is what they mean and what they say about the man, his capabilities and his judgment. Are McCain’s mistakes, misstatements and flip-flops understandable in an exhausting, hard-fought campaign or do they indicate that common debilities of age are diminishing his cognitive capacity?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Gullible considers some personal photographs in Focused on Distance (A Love Story).]


Age and John McCain – Part 1

category_bug_politics.gif In the 24 August edition of This Week in Elder News, Citizen K left the following comment:

“I would be very interested for readers of Time Goes By to weigh in as objectively and honestly as possible on the age question. I barely qualify for the blog, so my insight is not the kind I'm looking for! I will say that my 80-year-old father - who is healthy and as intellectually sharp as ever - says that McCain is not up to the job and that age is a part of it. I get the impression that he sees McCain as an old 72. We've all heard about the forgetfulness in speeches and so forth.

“I'm not waving a red flag here or being deliberately provocative. But I also don't think that this is a matter of ageism. Consider parenting: At 53, I know a lot more than I did twenty years ago and would make better decisions. I also know that I simply don't have the energy for it and that that is a function of age.”

Citizen K asks a legitimate question, one I have thought about long and hard as I have closely watched the progression of the presidential campaign in general and Senator McCain over nearly two years. On a blog where the topic is steadfastly about age and its consequences, the question cannot be ignored.

So today and tomorrow will be devoted to consideration of Senator McCain’s age. Keep in mind that for reasons of policy issues, I support Senator Barack Obama and strongly oppose McCain. However, as far as it is humanly possible, I will keep it objective, reporting facts as they are known and clearly explaining my opinions. If you catch me going off track, speak up. And I look forward to additional thoughts and responses from you.

OVERVIEW OF OLD AGE
In the past, I have vehemently argued that to vote against Senator McCain based solely on the number of his years is ageist and morally reprehensible. I stand by that. But there is more to age than simple arithmetic.

Seventy-two sounds like Methuselah to young people, but the fact is that we age at dramatically different rates depending on health, genes and plain dumb luck. Some 50-year-olds already show signs of physical and/or cognitive impairment; some 80-year-olds are running corporations and even, occasionally, marathons. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

Some recent research shows that aging brains are much more resilient and adaptive than previously known. As one example, elders make greater simultaneous use of both sides of their brains calling forth a wider range of experiential input than in youth, leading to better judgment and what one brain researcher calls “biological wisdom.”

This is good news, but the most important thing to remember about how we age is how individual it is. Development in infants and toddlers can be measured to the month and even week of life, and if the kid isn’t walking or talking by the expected time, it can be cause for concern. But in elders, one person’s memory difficulties at, say, age 72, can be non-existent in another.

So the question in considering Senator McCain’s age is not the number itself, but whether McCain’s condition at age 72 is healthy and sharp enough to endure the responsibilities and pressures of a tough job at any time in history and a tougher one now given the multitude of domestic and international crises that must be addressed with intelligence, stamina and judgment.

With the dozens of debates, hundreds of speeches and innumerable interviews with journalists, there is plenty of information about Senator McCain on which voters can base that assessment. Elders are uniquely qualified to do so; we are already old, few of us are at the extremes of the aging spectrum mentioned above, and we know how age has and has not changed us.

HEALTH
Over the past 15 years, Senator McCain has had four melanomas, all surgically removed. Only one, in 2000, was invasive and doctors found no evidence of spreading following dissection of dozens of lymph glands.

When his plane crashed in Vietnam in 1967, both arms and a leg were broken. Under torture, both shoulders were broken. Lack of treatment while a prisoner has left Senator McCain with a limited range of motion in his arms and shoulders. His diet was less than adequate during his imprisonment.

McCain uses several medications: a diuretic to prevent kidney stones (some bladder stones were blasted with a laser several years ago); Zyrtec for nasal allergies; aspirin to prevent the formation of blood clots; Ambien CR for insomnia; and a multivitamin, all of which are relatively common among people of his age.

Neither the melanoma nor effects from the broken bones are age-related, and following his last physical examination in March 2008, physicians pronounced the senator in “excellent health.” (More on McCain's March physical here.)

However, the reports of his medical exams do not make any mention of normal decline of aging. Speaking only for myself, four-and-a-half years younger than Senator McCain, I know how my energy and stamina – both physical and cognitive - have changed in the past ten years or so.

  • All my energy is concentrated in the first half of the day. If my to-do list doesn't get done by mid-afternoon, it isn’t going to happen today. My mind becomes fuzzy late in the day, detailed thinking is difficult. Tasks as simple as sorting laundry or running the vacuum cleaner feel like too much and I leave them for tomorrow.
  • Stamina is lacking. Gone are the days when I could work 10 or 12 hours, shop and cook dinner for four, clean up the kitchen and go out to the movies.
  • I must write my blog posts early on the day before they are posted. Whenever you read a post that is poorly written, lacking detail and especially when it is badly organized, you would win if you bet it was written after 3PM.
  • When my regular schedule is disrupted as with house guests or travel or circumstances force me to do with less than seven hours of sleep, sloth sets in. I need a day to fully recover my physical and mental capabilities.
  • Sometimes and unpredictably, even when I have slept well and have not disrupted my routine, I have an overwhelming urge for a nap in the afternoon. And if there is to be an evening engagement, I always need a nap to be sure I won’t fall asleep in the soup.

I believe that I'm smarter, better informed and make better connections among many disparate pieces of information than I could when I was younger. But not after 3PM. I would never undertake a decision that requires judgment in any of the above circumstances. I know from friends my age and many of you when we have discussed aging here, that all these changes are fairly typical after 50 or 60.

It is conceivable that Senator McCain does not suffer from these debilities. But a little-reported fact is that although the McCain campaign attacked Senator Obama for taking a week’s vacation with his family in Hawaii, McCain, with rare exceptions, did not campaign on weekends during the long primary season.

Did he need those weekends to rest up from five days on the road? It is a reasonable question because events that require a president’s immediate attention and judgment do not happen only on weekdays during office hours.

Age and John McCain - Part 2

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Daisy takes us back to an earlier Republican Convention in I Wish Someone Would Phone.]


Senator McCain's Catastrophic Choice

category_bug_politics.gif Two days this week were to be devoted to a serious consideration of presidential candidate Senator John McCain's age. That will still happen, beginning tomorrow, but at the start of the holiday weekend, there was a sudden twist in the presidential campaign that is relevant to the question and deserves first mention. I’m sure you know I’m talking about McCain’s choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.

First, here is a quick list (it cannot be otherwise) of Governor Palin’s qualifications, although you probably know this stuff by now.

  • For less than two years, she has been governor of one of the smallest states in the country (47th in population) with few of the problems of other states.
  • Before that, she was mayor of a town with fewer than 9,000 people.
  • She vetoed a state bill that would ban same-sex marriage, but only because she was advised it was unconstitutional. Then she suggested amending the state constitution to make ban legal.

  • She has no background in national issues unless you think supporting drilling in ANWR is sufficient.
  • She has no knowledge anyone has yet found of international issues.
  • It is doubtful she knows anything about the Byzantine rules of the U.S. Senate over which she would preside as vice president.
  • There are allegations of abuse of power of her office currently being investigated.

In short, Governor Palin has not a single credential that would qualify her to be vice president of the United States. The choice is ludicrous on its face and deeply puzzling when you consider that for Senator McCain to win the election, he must induce some Democrats and a lot of independents to vote for him. It is difficult to figure out how Governor Palin helps in this regard:

  • She supports drilling in ANWR.
  • She supports teaching creationism in public schools.

  • She vehemently opposes women’s right to abortion even in instances of rape, incest or the life of the mother.

  • As governor, she instituted a bounty of $150 on wolves allowing them to be shot from airplanes which often leaves them injured and/or leaves pups unprotected from predators.
  • She has sued the federal government to remove polar bears from the endangered species list.
  • She likes to hunt which means she kills animals for sport.
  • She is a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association.
  • She does not believe global warming is man-made.
  • She opposes stem cell research.

The political pundits are tying themselves in knots to explain Senator McCain’s bizarre choice. One suggested that she is “a natural.” Maybe that works in baseball, but not in governing and do remember, we are talking about governing if elected, not making speeches to convince people to vote for you. Another idiot pundit stated that she knows all about international issues because Alaska is just across the Bering Strait from Russia.

These are some of the “reasons” that have been given for Senator McCain’s choice:

  1. to lure disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters
  2. to resurrect his frayed maverick tag
  3. to shore up his reputation with evangelical Christians and social conservatives
  4. to lay claim to being an agent for change

If any thought went into this decision, I suspect all four were part of it, but I doubt they will work with the possible exception of number 3. Senator McCain’s primary argument against Senator Obama - lack of experience - had been failing, so a new direction was required. McCain chose shock as his best, new strategy. Governor Palin was the choice of a desperate man who knows 2008 is his last chance to reach the pinnacle of power he has sought for more than a decade.

Governor Palin’s lack of political and governing substance is critical to the issue of Senator McCain’s age.

Given that age, 72, his history of recurring melanoma, physical (and, undoubtedly psychological) toll of torture during his POW years, it is more conceivable than with some other 72-year-olds that Senator McCain could die in office. Those factors make it McCain’s professional and personal responsibility as a citizen and a leader to choose a qualified vice president who can carry on the office of the presidency in his absence.

In the most fearfully anxious and uncertain times in memory, he failed that responsibility catastrophically. "My record shows that I have put my country first," Senator McCain said in a new interview. In choosing Governor Palin, Senator McCain has put his country dead last.

Published in Time magazine this week, the interview is one of the most peculiar, mean-spirited and unresponsive by a politician I have ever read. It also contains this snarly exchange pertinent to the choice of his running mate:

TIME: There's a theme that recurs in your books...about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?

MCCAIN: Read it in my books.

TIME: I've read your books.

MCCAIN: No, I'm not going to define it.

TIME: But honor in politics?

MCCAIN: I defined it in my five books. Read my books.

With Senator McCain's choice of Sarah Palin, he has shown us that he does not honor, however he defines it, his country or its citizens. Honor requires a president, particularly an old president, to prepare for an orderly succession with a qualified vice president to carry on the business of state in the event of his death or incapacity. Senator McCain has dishonored us.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellouise Schoettle brings Daddy's Kites up to the present day.]


The Traditional End of the Summer Season

Tomorrow, kids will return to school in the U.S. In fact, some have already. In the country's most northern reaches, there is a whiff of chill in the air and although you would expect that might be so here in Maine, it's been more summer-like than summer was for the past week or ten days. For most of June, July and August, hardly two days passed without thunderstorms or soaking, steady rains.

Labor Day, which has come to have more to do with barbecues than workers, gives us a three-day weekend, the traditional end of beach cottage rentals and for Time Goes By, a day off.

Meanwhile, the nominations for the August Excellence in Storytelling Award have been posted at The Elder Storytelling Place. Maybe you'll have time today to catch up on reading or re-reading the five stories and making your selection for the award.

Enjoy the holiday!