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Ageism and the Queen

Why was it that when Mic Jagger produced his last child a few months ago he was not shown in a rocking chair beset with grey hair and cane. More likely, with responses of thumbs up and “Attah boy,” gossip was impressive that an old dude was still so young.

But be a woman – of quite a lesser age! and the image that comes to mind is dowdy, frumpy, lacking in lustre. In the last year, I have been associated with this image at least twice.In not revealing my own age but describing myself in blogs and articles as a child of the 60’s I have received negative epithets that suggest I am ready for the Mosha Zakanam( Yiddish for old folks home). And it really infuriates me.

My grandparents WERE old and worn out by their 50’s, my buby Molly huffing and smoking “ special” asthma cigarettes, her stringy hair pulled back in a bun and never dyed, her short waisted body always in drab shapeless dresses, her lopsided hobble completing the resemblance to a crone. Yet the image of her lilting warm eyes remains as well. Molly’s husband ,Sam, was unsmiling, ageless, posture ramrod straight, and although he did not wear tails, one had the impression that behind his back he might have carried a pointer stick. They spent their days, before I knew them, crouched over sewing machines at Tiptop Tailors, immigrants with few choices but the weight and burden of life on their thin shoulders.

My mother’s parents, too, although seemingly better polished, also were not attached to a particular age; however, I did think of all grandparents and people taller than I as “old”. My mother’s father always cupped a half- smoked cigarette in his palm, and appeared to be coasting or dancing across the floor. My other grandmother’s scowl was timeless as well, angry from her dislocation from Europe, her cleaning and cooking for the landsmen from Poland my grandfather,Joe, trooped through their doors as unwelcomed guests. As a child, I found my grandparents all distant and cool, rarely hugged or even smiled at by them. Yet my mother adored her father, and the stories concerning special foods my father’s mother made for him out of love were endless.

But I was a baby boomer, one destined to jangle my lovebeads into grandparent hood.As well, all those my age had aged nicely, strengthening their core, exercising, consulting the latest experts on health and food choices, contemplating mindfulness training, gauging their cholesterol, finding Contemporary clothes to disguise the bag and sag of accumulated years. We moved easier( well some with knee or hip replacement), we were more knowledgeable about good heart choice meals and more veggies. We got down on the floor with our grandkiddies. We learned how to commandeer technology, computers, iPhones, IPads, that superseded typewriters, adding machines, snail mail and telephones. Some even ventured on Social media. So we moved with the times and adapted.Unlike the dinosaurs( or so I reckoned).

So last year when I had a trio of blogs accepted in a newspaper in cool California, I was pretty impressed that such a publication that appealed to a youthful culture would first, be interested and then actually, pay for my writing. The first two blogs , on my experiences in the San Diego scene, perhaps hinted at someone beyond a Millennial; however, the third concerned how I had tripped at Belmont Park, an experience I explained that had occurred from my earliest days as I am continually caught off guard by a scene, a flower, a friend and wind up with tangled feet hitting the ground hard, my head and body two separate entities, my knees permanently purple.

However the index that located the blog in the zine introduced my piece as” Old Lady Trips”. And I do not think they were punning on a Canadian connection to pot.

So infuriated was I that I emailed my contact who demurred that it was his editor who applied titles, not him.I immediately forwarded him a recent photo of me. True, it was flattering, as I did not send a picture of me in my worn nightie and rollers in my hair.He responded, “Oh my…!”. Oh my, in deed.

But just yesterday , so delighted to have an article published in a national newspaper, I could not wait to see the accompanying sketch. To my horror, the picture which did highlight the pointillism of Seurat’s Grande Jatte in the background ,displayed in the foreground a frump: the author(ME!). Upon closer examination, I noticed a purple cardigan, impressive rump and the most unshapely calves on the figure holding on to a picture frame. Her hair harked to the 20’s. Horrified , I looked closer to identify the personage as Queen Elizabeth the second- and not the one now dramatized in The Crown either. Certainly not a baby boomer.

What were they thinking? That someone who sat in a lecture hall in the 60’s was now 90? That someone who visits and discourses on art and art galleries is a decrepit soul who creeps in and out of rooms? That all this art stuff belongs to the over the hill types? The idea of the Queen being drawn into a picture frame was in deed cute, but truly, except for her horses and corgies, I have never associated her royal highness with colour, shape or form- with the exception of perhaps an interesting matching hat to her ensembles.

I wanted to scream ageism, sexism and send off a caustic comment to the paper, but my husband reminded me such a blast might prevent anything of mine being published there again should I follow the petulant like Trump model wherein he twittered about Meryl Streep’s comments at the Golden Globes. But perhaps only twerps tweet. So I took the higher ground . “Go high, “intoned Michelle Obama in my ears, and I chose to explode my outrage here in my blog.

Still, why is it that men get better with age, and women even boomers, get older?

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Stupid People

As I get older, I seem to get more crochetty. But perhaps there are more things that cause my blood to boil and more media distribution to relate tales of stupidity.

My daughter lives in a picturesque town outside of Philadelphia. Besides bird sanctuaries, downy paths to traverse and solid old stone houses, there is a caring community that will jump with home cooked meals should there be a birth or death. However, some of these kind folk hold religious beliefs that are in conflict with modern medical knowledge.

My two grandkids. ages 3 and 20 months came home ill from daycare – which everyone knows is the worst place to catch germs. However, with breathing issues and explosive coughing that lead to vomiting, the 20 month old wound up at the doctor’s. Shortly after, her little brother began to scream about his ears.which wound up being the site of infection. In the posts on FaceTime both adorable munchkins appeared lethargic and very sad, their pathetic little heads propped together on one pillow. Almost well, they were about to return to school when the doctor called: to inform. my daughter that both had pertussis or whooping cough. And so the children were quarantined for another week.

How ironic that unvaccinated children are allowed to wander the community, infecting while the victims of this stupidity are locked in. Now, I have no problem that kids who have been ill must refrain from spreading the germs, but to allow the perpetrators of the sickness to move freely in a society like so many Vika mosquitoes is unconscionable. And it makes me furious at the parents who refuse to vaccinate, ignorantly calling on some outmoded reason to validate their dopey contentions. Worse yet is a government that permits these violations to occur.

Not surprisingly I saw many Trump signs along the forested roads and charming alleys in Pennsylvania. And now with the election of this man, I again cannot but wonder at the stupidity of people who have voted for the man who now threatens the security of our children. Not just in the US, but in Canada and world wide.

Watching Meet the Press last Sunday, I heard Vice President- elect Pence, compared by John Oliver to a Salem witch hunter, downplay the telephone call Trump took from the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, referring to it as one of fifty calls of courtesy that week.. Beyond that rationale , perhaps worse yet was the dialogue with Chuck Todd , an apparent jeering, an outright patronizing and indignant quality to Pence’s words whose born again Catholic views prevail in his outmoded attitude towards women’s rights, especially abortion. On the same show Kellyanne Conway as well presented with that smug arrogance of the victor, unable to concede gracefully. Although Todd reminded her of the split in the nation, Conway ignored an opportunity to show humility but continued to berate the Press who did not take Trump’s pursuit of the country!s highest office seriously, she scolded. When Todd asked about putting the country first, suggesting Trump divest himself of his businesses while in office, Conway took the opportunity to again lecture and absurdly crow,” You know Chuck, he put the country ahead of everything else [by] running…”!! Taking a shot at the media, Conway was nicely told by Todd that” …that every knee- jerk push back is going to blame the media”!In deed pundits are suggesting that Trump used the media, rather than the other way around. John Doyle in the Star writes that Trump’s “ bombast and off- the – cuff blustering and rudeness is what gave CNN and other outlets staggering high ratings..” To the shame of the profession, focusing on this outrageous man was great for business and ratings so they overloaded the network, gave him airtime so his “tell it as it is” mantra instead of attacking his bigotry and lack of knowledge that just became de rigeur and was accepted in the homes of too many brainwashed Americans. So says Doyle in Monday’s Star,”He played the TV news outlets like fools.”

So not so stupid there.

But read Sara Kendzior in the Globe today ( Monday, December 5) about the fears of a Uzbekistan refugee whose only crime in his country was to teach about environmental problems. ( of course, we now know according to Trump that are none) or Dov Marmur on the rise of Anti- Semitic outbreaks across America. Marmur underlines that these attacks are” the consequences of xenophobia, misogyny and racism”( Toronto Star).

There is that old poem by Martin Niemollera prominent Protestant pastor eventually incarcerated by Hitler’s goons , that proclaims,

“ First they came for Socialists..Trade unionists…Jews…

Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Although Trump’s vitriolic words have been downplayed as not meaning what he has said, we do in fact follow the words we choose to put out in the public arena , transforming them into action. Consider how years ago the language of inclusion was put in place, for example, firemen was broadened to include “firefighters” so both men and women might participate in the profession. . As we speak so we behave.

These stupid people who believed Trump was a panacea to “ make America great” should have realized the only thing Trump wants to make great is himself. Where a big mouth is the main quality for election, one can only despair. What do Trump’s voters think, if in deed they think at all, of Trump’s rumination to put a Goldman Sachs banker in his cabinet. And with Trump’s boast to bring back refineries and restore the use of coal, do they worry their children may again return to working in the mines: images of Charles Dickens come to mind.

These are troubling times when a person of Trump’s demeanour, but more importantly values are not only permitted but encouraged.

I realize protests do little good and the horse has all ready left the barn. Perhaps what we can do is to continue to talk and debate in multiple forums so the old ideas of diversity, equality, opportunity, and kindness will not die within the next four years. Although we live in a free society , with Trump’s lambast at the Hamilton cast ignored and the ongoing( thank you Lorne Michaels) critique on SNL and the memory of Barack Obama’s election , that civility and clear thinking can eventually be restored, people must persist in finding positive role models for their children, ignoring the elephant in the room.

So last night Saturday Night Live does what Saturday Night Live often does best, to  poke fun at the political and the powerful with satire: here suggesting the President-elect has a penchant for firing off tweets with the impulse control of a toddler. And President-elect Trump, in turn, does what President-elect Trump does, almost immediately, tweeting out an attack on Saturday Night Live: “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live – unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad”

Sad indeed. No sense of irony. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Moving to Canada

Just last week I read that Frank Gehry was seriously considering returning to Canada after years in California. He’s in his 80’s and his anguish must be pretty intense if he is thinking that he might leave this beautiful climate for the cold north. But people always say that: “Oh, I’ll move to Canada”- and in the last two weeks, friends have insisted that if Trump is elected, they’ll pack their bags and hightail it out. 

During the Vietnam war in the 60’s, we actually got our slew of draft dodgers. I was at university and there were protests,meet- ins, teach-ins, demonstrations, marchs, musical emissaries and Timothy Leary and pacifists all uniting against their government’s actions. Most recall potently the use of Napalm, attention elicited primarily by the naked child Kim Phuc who ran screaming through the streets. She was sadly the terrible precursor of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian child washed up on Turkey’s shore after fleeing with his family for his life. The light of the disenfranchised recalled for me,None is Too Many, the Abella- Troper book that chronicled the fate of holocaust victims not allowed to our shores. Images in both written but printed formats stick, provoke, shame and induce the public to put pressure on governmental policies. So frustrated by policy and terror, some victims eventually arrive here, motivated by preserving limb and life. But I truly wonder if those threatening migration will actually take the next step; or is it merely idle jib jab to verbally take a stand. 

(Strangely enough, I chatted with a woman yesterday who told me that fearful of radiation thirty or so years ago, she, young and determined, left for New Zealand, but returned years later to the states. Maybe the 60’s were the years of the zealots.!)

 Watching Borgen, Denmark’s answer to  an intelligent television series, we observe how deals among countries are made. The fictional character Birgitte Nyborg is likely based on Denmark’s first female prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt,although Thorning-Schmidt had not been elected until after the second series of Borgen. Adam Price, the creator of the series, stated, “I definitely want [ viewers] to believe there is a shred of idealism in Birgitte Nyborg that is real”.( Wikepedia) Although Nyborg possesses strong moral incentives, she learns what to trade or what incentives she wants to promote as representative of her Moderates party. She discovers the dirty little secrets, the huge mismanagement of funds, the soft spots of countries and their powerful politicos.. 

I do believe she acts for the best interests of Denmark ( in the show) in demonstrating fairness, thoughtfulness and increasing savvy, exploring, probingand heeding the voices in her country and outside of it. At great cost to her personal life, she dedicates herself to a job,her success due in large part to an image fostered in the news and television. Of course, it is fiction but the series makes us long for the lofty intentions and inspiring acts of a Roosevelt with his new deals or a Kennedy with his establishing The Peace Corps. ( 1961). And although much is created in the media for the candidates in any race towards influence, we long to believe that behind the façade there is substance :that the person in the glossies is more: better, smarter, kinder, more thoughtful and has gathered the crowds and re- instituted a belief that society can be  and should be good. 

 
Yet unfortunately, we are downcast and as Philip Roth once quipped of one of his literary characters,“ Beneath the surface was only more surface” in political hopefuls.

We hope for investigative and critical news journalists, uncoverers of the truth such as Katrine Fonsmark in Borgen, to dialogue with those who aspire to the highest throne in the land. In the real world, I miss Tim Russert from Meet the Press who really knew how to dig deep beneath the persona of his guests. 

Incurable my harangue today goes to Donald Trump. I scoffed because I recalled Toronto’s crack- smoking , bigoted mayor Rob Ford who was once a fat guy in a non-descript raincoat hanging around the parking lot in a plaza where my husband first indicated that that that guy was running for election. I guffawed. He won. So anything is possible in our world of sideshow mirrors. 

Huffington Post rightly posted Trump in entertainment. Then they recanted saying, 

“Back in July, we announced our decision to put our coverage of Trump’s presidential campaign in our Entertainment section instead of our Politics section. ‘Our reason is simple, ‘wrote Ryan Grim and Danny Shea. ‘Trump’s campaign is a sideshow.’ 

Since then Trump’s campaign has certainly lived up to that billing… it’s also morphed into something else: an ugly and dangerous force in American politics. So we will no longer be covering his campaign in Entertainment. But that’s not to say we’ll be treating it as if it were a normal campaign. 

Our decision in July was made because we refused to go along with the idea, based simply on poll numbers, that Trump’s candidacy was actually a serious and good faith effort to present ideas on how best to govern the country.” 

How do we fathom the television showman whose lack of knowledge, experience and credibility has garnered support? How can we support media that did not immediately cut off his personal attacks on Rosie O’ Donnell at an early Republican debate or refuse to debate in the GOP Iowa caucus? Although some might not see a connection with the right to bear arms in America, I see it as part of the same fabric: of those petulant grown up children who use freedom of this or that for their private disregard of the safety and fair play to others. 

Certainly free speech should not embrace and allow the hateful harangues of spewing hideous garbage  from the mouths of candidates. That the news industry permitted and has provided time and platform for Trump’s antics is inexcusable. 

But that he continues to grow support, most recently in Nevada, makes no sense and should shame all citizens who support his buffoonery. Tragically, the other candidates are no better.A recent article by Margaret Wente in the The Globe and Mail discussed this uneviable state, opining that Hilary Clinton, a manipulate and deceitful politician, must be the victor. 

Here in Canada, especially after watching terrified at the possible candidates who are in the US. race, we must, at least, appreciate Justin Trudeau, for his impetus towards making our world safer.He is young, not an intellectual like his father, but fumbling, learning, in a way that we can respect. 

I’m afraid that moving to Canada is not a possibility for those disenchanted with American politics. And I worry that the disenfranchised can somehow imagine that the likes of Trump will create a better world for them. It is as Alice once fretted, “ it is curious and curiouser. “

And truly terrifying. 

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