Three years ago, I wrote an article about religious intolerance. My premise was that America had actually never been that religiously tolerant, that today religion, Christianity in particular, was the one area where intolerance was still acceptable, and that those who often cried for the most tolerance could be the most intolerant. I used the fact that The Book of Mormon won a Tony Award as evidence, as well as how Hollywood continues to criticize Christians while attacking any who dares say anything negative about Muslims or Jews, let alone anyone of a different race or sexual orientation. Upon seeing a preview of FX’s latest crime thriller “Under the Banner of Heaven,” I though it’s time to maybe reexamine religion in America amongst this new culture of political correctness. What I found is that history has not changed and that Hollywood has once again used a similar scapegoat to attack those who believe in a God.
Let me start by saying I am a fan of Jon Krakauer. Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, the two books he wrote before Under the Banner, are both amazing reads. It’s his fourth book where he turns from his themes of exploring and often losing to nature towards religion and violence that seems unfamiliar. The premise of Under the Banner of Heaven is that religious people are irrational and, as irrational and fanatical people, they commit irrational violent acts. As with the musical The Book of Mormon, FX is targeting an easy sect of Christianity, one that even other Christians are Ok seeing attacked. While this particular story deals with a polygamous splinter group of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Krakauer’s premise is for all believers of God, as he wrote in Chapter Six of Under the Banner of Heaven, “All religious belief is a function of nonrational faith. And faith, by its very definition, tends to be impervious to intellectual argument or academic criticism.”
The TV adaption has not been released and so I do not know how closely it stays true to the book, but the book looks at the 1984 murders committed by two brothers belonging to the FLDS. Krakauer believes it was their fanatical devotion to God that allowed them to justify their cruel actions. As part of his evidence, he examines the history of the Mormon Church, which he links with violence and extremism. As a historian, I am clearly not going to argue that religion has not played a part in violence. Examples would take all the space in this article and then some, so instead I want to focus on one quote Krakauer used to title his work, “Under the Banner of Heaven.”
This quote was taken from a speech given by the third president or prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ, John Taylor, given in 1880 in which he said, “God is greater than the United States, and when the Government conflicts with heaven, we will be ranged under the banner of heaven against the Government. The United States says we cannot marry more than one wife. God says different.” While polygamy is appalling to the vast majority of Americans, historically speaking, the concept of standing up to authority for a higher cause has been common and even celebrated. In 1846 when America declared war on our neighbors to the south, not all Americans agreed with the invasion. One such man was the author Henry David Thoreau. He so disagreed with America’s actions that he was imprisoned for his refusal to pay taxes to support what he believed was an unjust war. The year after the war he published his thoughts in an essay called “Civil Disobedience.” Thoreau wrote, “I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave’s government also. All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to and to resist the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.” He even went as far as to say about his own imprisonment, “In an unjust society the only place for a just man is prison.”
Starting in the 1920s, another man took up the cry for civil disobedience as he struggled for freedom against the British Empire. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state becomes lawless or corrupt.” He believed people needed to resist the civil government when that government hurt the people. Unlike Thoreau, Gandhi actually pushed out his oppressors in the name of justice.
Finally, a few years after Gandhi, another man made a similar statement about resisting the government for higher laws. In 1963 while in prison in Birmingham, Ala., Dr. Martin Luther King gave his justifications for breaking the law that landed him in jail. King wrote, “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” Also, like Thoreau, King spoke to those in prison when he said, “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”
I am not saying that John Taylor standing up for polygamy is the same as these men, but they were all standing up for something they believed in. They also had another thing in common: all their protests were nonviolent. As militant as Taylor’s speech may seem, there was nothing violent associated with him during his almost seven years as leader of the Church or any other church leader after him. If Taylor’s words condemn his as violent, then Thoreau, Gandhi and King must also be condemned as violent. If Krakauer’s thesis is correct and Mormon splinter groups, Latter Day Saints, and all religious people are inherently violent, then so must be all civil rights workers, Indians, and, I guess, students of American literature. If only some of those first groups are inherently violent, then his logic must agree that all Muslims are terrorists because some are.
While I am not calling for any sort of cancellation, Hollywood has the right to air any kinds of program they want. Yet it reminds me of the saying that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Also, that, historically speaking, America has had an interesting relationship with religion. While we still praise our concept of freedom of religion, we also have reserved religion as the one concept which is still politically correct to attack.
Dr. James Finck is a Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. To receive daily historical posts, follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.
Dr. Petrolove or: How I learned to stop worrying and love fossil fuels
We always knew it would come to this.
That it would start … out there. Out on the Left Coast where all the loonies live: California, the land of surfboards and wildfires; of Google, Apple and Microsoft; of swimming pools and movie stars. And godless liberals.
That’s the sort of place where wild-eyed, un-American ideas get seeded by some radical who dares to think beyond this decade and where it would take root and, before you knew it, creep across the purple mountain majesties and the fruited plain like kudzu.
Sure ’nuff, it happened: a sneak attack. OK … a sneak attack with 13 years’ notice, but that’s no time at all when you’re talking about ending the sale of new gasoline-powered cars.
Youngkin’s my name. Glenn Youngkin. I command this conservative outpost called Virginia, and if those granola-munching, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing lefties are spoiling to go toe-to-toe over our precious petroleum fluids, well … hold my Chardonnay.
A slick-haired, tan-from-a-can dandy named Gavin Newsom, my counterpart in California started this dust-up. And I aim to finish it. It was his doing and that of the lefty legislature out in the so-called Golden State that flat-out dictated that come 2035, there would be no more brand-new cars sold that rely on internal combustion of petroleum distillates for locomotion. If you buy it new off a dealer’s lot or order it online factory-fresh, it’ll run off hydrogen fuel like some spaceship or you’ll have to plug it in like some lowly vacuum cleaner or washing machine.
That’s pretty rich, ain’t it? A state that barely a week ago was warning of rolling blackouts on account of a freak heat wave draining its power grid is going to force folks to buy cars that run off the very electricity that they already can’t make enough of.
Not that it’s any skin off ol’ Glenn’s hind parts if Californians won’t have the privilege of paying upwards of seven frogskins a gallon for regular gas – nearly nine bucks for high-test – as they did several weeks ago. What slaps my chaps is that what Newsom did means I’d have to do the same thing across the country here in god-fearin’, carbon-lovin’ Virginia, too.
Like hell I will.
I’m pulling Virginia out of this Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and I’m asking the General Assembly to repeal this perfidious state law the Democrats passed in 2021 that requires us to follow California’s lead on emissions policy. Seventeen other states are part of this same devil’s deal, but I can only strike a blow for the good of our fossil fuels here in Virginia (unless I strike it lucky in the 2024 presidential primaries, but that’s another tale).
Here comes Lionel Mandrake, my somewhat uptight, British-born environmental policy wonk, walking into my office. Right on time.
“Mandrake, have a seat,” I said, motioning to the chair opposite my desk.
“Good evening, sir. Do I understand correctly that we’re threatening to leave the multi-state vehicle emissions compact and that you’ve placed the House of Delegates on Condition Red?” Mandrake said. “Good idea. Keep the lads on their toes.”
“I’m afraid this isn’t a drill, Mandrake,” I replied.
“Oh dear. Is California involved?”
“Looks like it. Could get pretty hairy.”
I took a sip of my preferred cocktail, an oaky Pinot Grigio and rainwater. “Mandrake, I can no longer sit back and allow leftist infiltration, leftist indoctrination, leftist subversion and the international leftist conspiracy to sap and impurify our precious petrochemical fluids!”
“But sir, might we be acting a bit … rashly? I mean, the whole bloody point will likely be moot by 2035 whether we act or not. The mass conversion to electric vehicles is well under way. Detroit and the world’s other automakers are retooling and switching entire model lines pell-mell from internal combustion engines to electric motors. Why, there’s even a new start-up right here in Virginia that’s in business converting big-rig tractors from diesel engines to electrical. Our own transportation department just announced plans for a major expansion of electrical charging stations along interstates across Virginia. And our friends at Dominion are ever so keen on the idea of vehicles that use electricity,” Mandrake said.
“Friends? Dominion?” I said, giving Mandrake the stink-eye.
“Dreadfully sorry. Habit from the not-too-distant past,” he said.
“Mandrake, do you realize that EV dominance is the most monstrously conceived, leftist/environmentalist plot we’ve ever faced?”
“Nevertheless, sir, carmakers are going where the money and incentives are, and if a market the size of Cali goes EV, so shall they. Were California, its own country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest economy ,right behind Germany and just ahead of the United Kingdom — God save the king. California’s almost $3 trillion annual GDP accounts for nearly 15% of the entire American economy,” he continued in a pleading tone.
“And sir,” Mandrake continued, “General Motors has already announced it will bring 30 new EV models to market in just the next three years and manufacture EVs exclusively by 2035. Ford has invested $22 billion into electric vehicles, and 40% of all that it produces will be all-electric by 2030. Besides, sir, this shan’t affect the sale of pre-owned petrol-powered cars by one tuppence.”
“Sit down and chill, Mandrake. I’ve already gotten the ball rolling with Todd Gilbert and our boys in the House. There’s no stopping it now,” I said.
“I beg of you, Glenn – politics aside — have you considered the climatological implications? It brings us incrementally closer to … the Doomsday Machine,” he said ominously. “It’s getting worse every year, sir: triple-digit temperatures in Portland, Oregon, and even Scotland, for goodness sake; a full-blown hurricane now forecast to blast the Canadian coast near Newfoundland; estuaries and reservoirs drying up in the American Southwest; hundred-year floods happening every year.”
“The libs have been using that global warming hooey to try to scare the bejeebers out of us for decades now. Every study the petroleum industry pays for proves the same thing: science can’t be trusted,” I replied.
“But you don’t have to believe me, Mandrake,” I continued, buzzing my receptionist. “Can you send in Dr. Petrolove?”
“Petrolove sir?” Mandrake asked. “Wasn’t he …”
“Yeah. I put him on retainer after he made parole for his part in that Enron nastiness back in the 2000s. Knows every dirty secret in the oil and gas biz and some they haven’t even thought up yet. If your ‘Doomsday Machine’ exists, Petro will know about it.”
“’Sup, chief?” Petrolove called out in his Texas twang as he strutted into my office.
“Petro, Mandrake here tells me there’s the risk of some ‘Doomsday Machine’ that could plunge humanity into environmental oblivion if we keep standing up for our friends in the carbon-energy sector,” I said. “Go ahead and tell him how full of malarkey he is.”
“Um …,” Petro said, shuffling his cowboy boots, unable to look at me.
“Go ahead, Doc. School Mandrake for me.”
“Well, el hefe,” Petrolove said, haltingly clearing his throat, “the Doomsday Machine is real and terrifying, but completely credible and easy to understand. If we don’t decrease the carbon that we’re pumping into the atmosphere, it will create a doomsday shroud around the planet.”
Chills ran down my back. I swallowed hard. Suddenly I understood. Why hadn’t I seen the devastating truth of this all along? Why had I clung to naïve beliefs in the face of clear evidence? It was, indeed, an inconvenient truth, but it was high time I accepted it … and spoke it.
“Damn shame the libs got to you, too, Petro. You’re fired.”
by Bob Lewis, Virginia Mercury
Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: email@example.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.
Let me ask you one thing, what limits you?
Response to Letters to the Editor by Mr. Waller Wilson
First, some house cleaning: it is his, not her; C.J. stands for Cyril Joseph. Second when I submitted the article to the Royal Examiner, I had footnoted my sources in the article’s footer. I don’t know why they did not appear in the post. They are repeated here for info: “Hot Talk Cold Science” by Singer, Chapter 6 p77, “Dark Winter” by Casey, Appendix 3 Figure A3-2 p89.
As to the question on CO2, chapter 10 of “Hot Talk Cold Science” (revised and expanded third edition copyright 2021) is devoted to the subject of CO2in the atmosphere. Chapter 10, page 130, states: “Greenhouse gas” means only that CO2 absorbs some radiation; it does not guarantee climate warming, the forcing of CO2 depends on where it is in the atmosphere. Its actual behavior depends mostly on atmospheric structure, expressed by atmospheric lapse rate (ALR), and is defined as the change in atmospheric temperature with altitude.
The Atmospheric Lapse Rate (ALR) is different for the three regions of the atmosphere. The ALR is positive for the Stratosphere, Zero for the Tropopause, and Negative for the Troposphere. This supports the principle that depending on where in the atmosphere, the radiation on the CO2 molecules can produce cooling. The following statement on the Climate4U website is taken from a graph of CO2 in ppm and HadCRUT3 temperature.
Climate4You website 20080927: Reflections on the correlation between global temperature and atmospheric CO2 “By this, the diagram illustrates that the overall relation between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature apparently has changed several times since 1958.
In the early part of the period, with CO2 concentrations close to 315 ppm, an increase in CO2 was associated with decreasing global air temperatures. When the CO2 concentration around 1975 reached 325 ppm, this association changed, and increasing atmospheric CO2 was now associated with rising global temperatures. However, when the CO2 concentration at the turn of the century reached about 378 ppm, the association possibly changed back to that, characterizing the period before 1975, before apparently changing again around 2014.” So the curve fit shows a decrease after 1958 followed by an increase until July of 2022, when it slope became negative again. The data and graph were updated on 8 September 2022.
These are the sources (and some additional data) you requested.
Cyril J. Cook
I think it’s safe to say that Tangiers Island is safe from the “Doomsday Glacier” as a matter of public policy.
I just read “Commentary: National approach is more urgent than stopgap funding for Tangier Island,” written by Roger Chesley for the Virginia Mercury news service. The commentary starts out:
“A so-called “doomsday glacier” in Antarctica that could raise sea levels several feet is disintegrating faster than previously predicted, according to a new study.”
I clicked on the Nature study that is linked, and it does not give a prediction for sea level rise, but it references another study that does give a sea level rise prediction and timeline. The referenced study (unfortunately abstract only) is here https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.1249055, and it says:
“Simulated losses are moderate (<0.25 mm per year at sea level) over the 21st century but generally increase thereafter.”
In other words, less than an inch of sea level rise between now and 2100, with a more rapid rise starting between 200 and 900 years from now. I think it’s safe to say that Tangiers Island is safe from the “Doomsday Glacier” as a matter of public policy.
But what about sea level rise from other sources? There’s sea level rise from expanding oceans due to global warming. There’s also glacier melt, Greenland melt, and other Antarctic melt. Sea level rise is constantly measured by satellite. An up-to-date estimate can be found here: https://sealevel.colorado.edu It comes to an adjusted 1.3 inches (an actual rise of 1.1 before adjustment) per decade with some acceleration, as shown.
However, there’s another major factor for Tangier Island, as Roger points out in an op-ed that he links in “Commentary”:
“He (Skip Stiles, executive director of Norfolk-based Wetlands Watch) said the Virginia Institute of Marine Science delivered a report to the legislature last year on recurrent flooding in Tidewater. It noted an expected 18-inch increase in sea-level rise over the next 20 to 50 years in Virginia.”
The Tidewater area, including Tangier Island, is subsiding. There is another Nature study describing the subsidence around Tangier Island and providing some predictions of sea level rise:: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep17890
I believe all measurements, predictions, costs, and benefits should be considered with full caveats and context. As is the case in a representative democracy, politicians will make the decision whether to spend money preserving Tangiers for at least a few decades and potentially longer. As I have said before, we are not a scientocracy, and we should consider science, such as sea level rise predictions, as one of the inputs to the political process.
Front Royal, VA
Commentary: Miyares plays ‘election integrity’ politics to romance the MAGA base
Politicians will play politics. And there’s nothing wrong with that, generally.
The problem comes when the malignant notion takes hold that an overwhelmingly clean, fair process of administering elections is fair game for a partisan disinformation campaign to subvert public faith in the process and impose a corrupt system under one-party control.
The MAGA wing of today’s Republican Party knows that its ever-deepening right-wing nationalism, its penchant for bizarre and baseless conspiracies and the extremist candidates it attracts will alienate America’s mainstream and make it harder to win fair elections in an increasingly diverse nation without its heavy thumb on the scales.
The latest to give comfort toward that antidemocratic end is Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who is creating a 20-person “election integrity unit” in his office. That’s particularly dismaying because Miyares is not among the Republicans who falsely claim President Joe Biden usurped Donald Trump’s presidency through fraud. At least that’s what the office’s spokeswoman, Victoria LaCivita, recently assured the Mercury’s Graham Moomaw.
But Miyares can’t resist playing politics and pandering to the GOP’s Trumpist hard-liners whom he could ask to nominate him for governor of Virginia in less than three years.
I’ve covered elections and the machinery for carrying them out from the precinct level to the top echelons of state government for decades. Perhaps the most edifying part of that job is witnessing firsthand each year how ordinary Virginians, motivated by a strong civic spirit, invest exhausting hours at neighborhood voting precincts so citizens can vote. Up and down the line in Virginia, under Republican and Democratic administrations, election officials played it by the book without regard to party or ideology, helping Virginia’s electorate translate its collective will and wisdom into government policy.
The system was never perfect. Mistakes occur. Antiquated technology fails. There’s both misfeasance and malfeasance, but deliberate wrongdoing on a scale that can alter an election’s legitimate outcome is exceedingly rare.
One validation is the risk-limiting audits the Department of Elections conducts after each statewide election as required by Virginia law.
In the 2020 presidential and U.S. Senate races, the audit found that the risk of a mistake large enough to reverse outcomes of the election – victories for Democrats Biden and Sen. Mark Warner – was less than a ten-thousandth of a percentage point. Expressed another way, the audit found accuracy levels for both races exceeded 99.9999%.
For the 2021 race, dominated by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his GOP ticket, the risk-limiting audit tested two House of Delegates races – the 13th House District won by Democratic Del. Danica Roem over Republican Christopher Stone, both from Manassas, and the 75th District won by Republican Otto Wachmann over longtime Democratic Del. Roslyn Tyler, both of Sussex – and again found accuracy levels exceeding 99.7%.
Malicious efforts to vote illegally or fraudulently influence an outcome are scarce if prosecutions or official litigation are a reliable measure.
The conservative Heritage Foundation has created a searchable online database of all the “recent proven instances of election fraud from across the country” that it can find. For context, it considers the early 1990s recent. It calls the database “a sampling” and “not an exhaustive or comprehensive list.”
The database, spanning at least eight presidential elections, documents 1,375 proven instances of fraud. Of that total, 1,182 resulted in criminal convictions, 48 resulted in civil penalties, 103 resulted in a diversion program, and 42 resulted in official or judicial findings, which can sometimes overturn the result of an election or exclude a candidate from the ballot.
Twenty of the 1,375 cases were in Virginia. They date to 2007, and none involved findings that reversed elections. Six of the cases were false registrations, and five each were for ineligible voting, mostly by felons, and ballot petition fraud, mostly bogus signatures. The most serious case, tried in 2007, involved the former mayor of Appalachia and 14 others who were convicted of conspiring to buy votes in the 2004 municipal election with, among other things, cigarettes, beer and pork rinds. The mayor served two years in jail and two years of monitored home detention in what the Heritage Foundation calls “the largest voter fraud conspiracy to date in Virginia.”
Because the database includes only cases in which there has been a dispositive outcome, it does not reflect the recent indictment of Michele White, a former top Prince William County election official, on corruption charges as announced by Miyares’ office. As The Washington Post reported on Sept. 7, current Prince William County Registrar Eric Olsen said that a small number of votes in the 2020 election may have been affected, but not enough to affect any election results.
Voting or election fraud is a serious business in a democracy. It deserves to be prosecuted. For every vote illegally cast or every action that falsifies or cheats someone out of the right to vote, a citizen is deprived of his or her franchise, the most precious of blessings in a democratic republic. The same goes for deceitful and intimidating voter-suppression tactics.
But to assert that it is somehow pervasive, as “election integrity” crusades rooted in Trump’s corrosive election lies do, is wrong.
Consider that in the 15-year span during which those 20 Virginia cases were adjudicated, nearly 41 million Virginians voted in fall general elections. That doesn’t count special elections, local municipal or county races or primaries.
That’s hardly a ratio that demands a call to arms.
Miyares knows that. He’s a smart guy and a good lawyer. He knows that the office to which he was elected already has “full authority to do whatever is necessary or appropriate to enforce the election laws or prosecute violations thereof.” His prosecution of White had already demonstrated that better than his subsequent announcement of an election bunko squad ever could.
There’s less to his strike force than meets the eye. It has no separate budget. It will be composed primarily of staff who can juggle election investigations alongside other duties to which they are already assigned.
But, alas, it’s good politics – for Miyares, anyway. Not only does it stoke a GOP base that will likely be asked to choose between him and Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears in 2025 for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, but the unit stands to get a lot of fodder tossed its way soon because of an impending change in the partisan makeup of electoral boards in all 133 localities.
Among the spoils that go to the victor of gubernatorial elections is the right to have the new governor’s party dominate state and local electoral boards. Next year, those boards shift from Democratic majorities to GOP majorities. And in Miyares, they have an attorney general with a platoon poised to pounce on any perceived irregularities they feed him.
How better to contrive an argument for restoring the restrictive voting laws the GOP implemented while it dominated the General Assembly for most of the first two decades of the 21st century? Laws like the photo ID requirement and rigid constraints on early and absentee voting that made it hard for marginalized and disabled Virginians to vote were repealed after Democrats briefly won full control of the General Assembly in 2019. Republicans, who regained a slim House majority last year, advanced voting restriction bills in the 2021 legislative session, but they died in a Democratic Senate.
You’d hope that Miyares and his party could advance beyond one election in which Virginia (and the nation) repudiated the most noxious president in U.S. history without trying to immolate the nation’s imperfect yet solid election infrastructure in obsequious fealty to Trump’s delusions. Virginia proved to the country last November, just one year after it had resoundingly elected Democrats, that its system is not rigged against Republicans.
And nothing made the case better than Miyares’ own impressive victory, the most unexpected of them all.
by Bob Lewis, Virginia Mercury
Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.
Commentary: Ancient of Age – the Social Dilemma
How old is too old? Too old for what? Society has many strange expectations of how we should act and what we should be doing as we migrate through the scores of years in route to the finish line. When is it too old to wear certain fashions or sport particular hairstyles? When is it too old to date or marry someone? What are the expectations for watching certain movies (think Star Wars or Harry Potter), and how old is too old to attend certain venues? (Think bars and nightclubs). We are not even going to talk about shoe fashions, skinny jeans, or pleated slacks.
What should the disposition of a forty-year-old person be versus one ten years older? If you are fortunate enough to grow older, the expectation is that you are supposed to know how to act when you arrive. However, most just wing it. If you need further education on how to conduct yourself at a certain age, kindly ask. There is no shortage of opinions out there.
The road to the finish is veiled and hazy. Everyone navigates through life in his or her own fashion. Some people have a short adventuresome life, and some have a long one. You have likely heard the adage, “It is not the years in your life but the life in your years.” Some people do more in thirty years than the rest of us do in eighty. Along the way, we encounter a labyrinth of options with few guidelines mapping the road considered acceptable – especially regarding the subjective concepts of being too old for this or that. The guidelines for aging within the parameters of societal norms are mostly subjective.
Essentially, age is a state of mind. You are as old as you feel. If you are in your 40s and feel like a teenager, then good for you – but be cognizant of the laws surrounding such feelings. Recently, I walked into a happening venue in South Tampa only to realize I was a hundred years older than everyone else. I thought, “One of these folks is not like the others.” It was me. Simply put, I felt “too old.”
Luck often dictates how we discover the unwritten standards that we are obliged to follow. We have all heard the gossipers, “She’s too old to be wearing that outfit,” or “he still wears blue jeans with no belt like he is perpetually twenty,” or “he’s driving a sports car – so he’s having a mid-life crisis.” When should a woman stop wearing skimpy swimwear or short skirts? “She’s too old to wear her hair long.” There are no published standards for such things – yet if you unwittingly violate them, you are subject to ridicule.
Dating and marriage really bring out the pundits. “She’s married to a sugar daddy almost twice her age,” or the converse, “he’s a cradle robber.” There are no written guidelines for such things as long as all involved are of legal status. Some people say, who cares? I fall into that camp, but collectively our opinions run rampant – especially these days on social media. I guess we need something to talk about, or life would be boring.
My research into the realm of “old age” uncovered about three written codes for issues on aging. Those are guidelines provided by insurance agencies and the rules governing Social Security and retirement communities. The insurance agents display metrics regarding your plight in life as it pertains to life expectancy. They will gladly point out the norms for retirement age and statistics regarding your remaining time in the game. The only other guidelines I could find were the bounds for Social Security benefits and retirement communities.
If you are not sure when you are supposed to be old – consult the Social Security guidelines. Essentially, you are officially old at age 62, as that is your first opportunity to reap “old people” benefits.
You are definitely proclaimed “old” at age 70 when you automatically get Social Security benefits. Retirement communities also offer a bit of clarity regarding the perceptions of being old. You cannot live there until you are “old” enough. If you opt to live there at the youngest allowable age – then your friends will have a field day with gossip. Consequently, you navigate on.
Although most firms balk at hiring someone in their 70s, people continue to hire senior citizens to run the country. The last two presidents, according to Social Security parameters, were officially old. Apparently, you are never too old to be President. But the few that belong to that club have reached the pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and pay no attention to the “You are too old to be president” noise. The recent passing of the British monarch showed that it is possible to preside over a country well into your nineties. However, most of us expect to stop performing before that and consider ninety “old age.” The politically correct police have other terms for it, but we move on.
The simple fact is, human beings have a shelf life, and some models last longer than others do. Eventually, we all get “old” and stop. The 1982 movie “Blade Runner” provides an interesting take on that regarding the lifespan of android models and humans. As alluded to earlier, the question is – when are we too old for something? Take Tom Brady, for example. He is like Peter Pan and cannot grow up.
Tom Brady, aka TB12 or the GOAT, is 45 years old and considered by some the Greatest Of All Time – hence the GOAT thing. He plays in a league where the average age is 26 years old. By the way, that is less than the average age in the NFL five years ago. He competes against players young enough to be his offspring. Meanwhile, he continues to excel in a profession that showcases some of the largest and most physically fit humans on the planet. The pundits have proclaimed TB12 too old to play in the NFL for years. Eventually, they will be right – but not right now. He does not share in those perceptions, and his mental state and physical prowess are apparently undaunted by the spell of aging. Good for Tom. However, rumor has it that even his 42-year-old wife has threatened divorce if he does not grow up and retire. Talk about an abused senior citizen. Poor Peter Pan.
Wine and other alcoholic spirits get better with age. Typically, most humans do not. There is a saying, “the older I get, the better I was,” but that saying is likely associated with embellishment of past adventures. Speaking of such, if you get ‘old enough,’ you can spin tales of past exploits any way you please, as there are no other living participants to dispute your recollection. Unfortunately, if you luckily arrive at old age, memory loss becomes an impediment, as does the challenge of finding an attentive audience. Of course, there are symptoms of getting old, and they usually surface in the form of impaired cognition and a reduction in physical prowess. I often hear the comment, “getting old sucks.” So, in a way, we are somewhat cognizant that we are getting old, but we still trip over the expectations and social norms along the way.
Birthdays are a problem we all have annually. Getting old means more candles on the cake. Your first clue to getting old is when the birthday cake has only two candles. Visualize a candle with a five and one with a zero side by side as the person turns half a hundred. Then ten years later, visualize the combination of two candles that add up to sixty. Pragmatism and logistics rule this concept. There is great difficulty in firing up sixty small candles. Invariably, the first ones lit tend to bleed wax all over the cake before the main event. People that old are not renowned for their respiratory capacity either, so blowing out sixty candles may be setting them up for failure. The bottom line is that the golden years are not all that, but getting there beats the alternative.
Due to human nature, it is almost impossible not to be tangled in societal issues regarding aging. However, in reality, we should not worry with any of this. It is highly unlikely that anyone that knows us will be walking the earth three-quarters of a century from now to comment on our fashion faux pas or any of our choices in life. We can only hope that we “grow old” gracefully and enjoy the ride through life. The alternative will show up soon enough.
In the words of Hunter S. Thompson, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’ ”