"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, June 20, 2016

We age better today, but we still get old

I'm hardly conscious that I am becoming an older person. Members of my generation never envisioned themselves becoming old, to be like those old people we remember from when we were growing up. People are in fact aging better today. Our society has made inroads on many fronts helping people age better.
That president of St. Cloud State who died in a car crash recently was 69. In my childhood, that would be considered old. Such a person would be retired. Today we read that he was 69 and think nothing of it. He had signed on for three more years at St. Cloud State. Earl Potter was the crusader who decided St. Cloud State simply had to cancel Homecoming. He probably realized this decision had become unavoidable. But, canceling Homecoming?
Potter didn't make himself available for quotes at the time this decision was reported. I remember one of my old classmates, Mike Nistler, who puts out that "Minnesota Moments" magazine, was quoted on behalf of St. Cloud State. Today our University of Minnesota shields Eric Kaler by telling the press that the president is "not available" for giving quotes. It's as if some higher power hovers over President Kaler, keeping him silent whenever one of those embarrassing sports stories breaks.
I believe that St. Cloud State should have tried to beat down its party school reputation long ago. Homecoming there degenerated so far, some people used the word "riots." Light a dumpster on fire.
I wonder if President Potter was a victim of distracted driving. Was he on a cellphone call? Or was it simply a case of being 69 years old and not having quite the same reflexes or alertness as when younger? We are reminded of the fragility of life. One minute you are on your way to a work meeting, your mind on all sorts of little details. Then in a mere instant, all your worldly concerns are pushed aside and you die. No chance for contemplation or communication with loved ones. Your soul instantly departs this life for whatever God has in mind for you.
 
Age gives perspective
I am now 61 years old. I'm old enough to remember certain things that younger people may be clueless about. I'm aware that even the nation of America can get dragged into a conflagration called the Viet Nam war. It can draft its young men into that mess and subject these men to a great likelihood of dying a miserable death.
Why do you think I project skepticism about police officers in my online writing? It's because when I was young, I soaked in lots of news media that showed us scenes of police with their shields and billy clubs going after the young Viet Nam war protesters. The kids could sometimes be beaten savagely. The National Guard opened fire and killed some young people in Ohio. And when all was said and done, we learned the protesting kids were 100 percent right.
I am old enough to remember when Republicans campaigned like conservatives but if elected, governed from the middle. Today there is too much pressure from conservative media, what David Frum calls the "conservative entertainment complex," to allow Republicans to behave in such a way. Republicans are too scared of being "primaried" from the right.
Republicans scare us by saying we must stomp out "socialism" from wherever it emerges. We have heard Barack Obama be decried in these terms for years. Claire McCaskill decried Bernie Sanders for being a "socialist." McCaskill is a Democrat. Please remember: All advanced industrial nations are a combination of free market capitalism and socialism.
I will be an outlier here and say we need a little more socialism in America. Jeb Bush at one point in his pathetic, short-lived campaign, said we must "abolish Medicare." So many of us, particularly older men, have a knee-jerk reaction of applauding all the anti-socialism rhetoric. These are men at an age where they actually will become fairly dependent on Social Security and Medicare. These programs are socialist. And yet these pickup-driving men sense in the ether that people within a certain strain in America must throw stones, in effect, at the likes of Obama and Sanders.
The reality is that life in America is becoming way too challenging for too many people. We learn that foster homes for children are filling up to capacity, and that many kids are forced to stay with their allegedly dysfunctional families. Dysfunctional? Maybe it's just getting too hard to make ends meet in America. People succumb to stress and start making mistakes.
We saw a front page headline in the Star Tribune a few days ago about how an epidemic is looming of elder abuse. Are there really that many bad people out there, or are people just struggling under unreasonable economic pressure? It's easy to point fingers. But this whole trend of stress within families suggests to me that life is just getting too difficult and that maybe we need things like "Medicare for all" (Bernie Sanders).
Keep in mind that the whole purpose of any government program is to help people. The programs can be flawed and inefficient in some ways, but their purpose is totally people-centered.
When you deal with any private sector-based system, you quickly learn that the purpose is quite different. When you think you have a homeowner's insurance claim, you'll realize that the company will pull any and all strings to either not pay at all, or pay minimally. You might have to shout at that poor insurance company rep for a while. Dylan Ratigan once said that these workers really appreciate it when you're nice to them, because they get shouted at so much. You might get them to pay the claim. But it's like pulling teeth.
How onerous is American life becoming? Joe Scarborough of "Morning Joe" summed it up one morning by saying: "Everything you need to do is hard. When you go to the Post Office, it's hard."
Yes, when you go to the Post Office now, you'll be required to answer certain questions and then you'll be asked if you want "insurance." I stood there speechless the first time I was asked about insurance. I said "I'm just sending this package to Starbuck and I'm sure you guys can handle it." Actually the package would probably go all the way to the Twin Cities first.
The Republicans have wanted to "privatize" the Postal Service. Heck, they'll privatize everything if you let them. And under Jeb Bush we might see Medicare abolished. And yet many politicians of this ilk get elected. I'm waiting for the worm to turn.
I saw a bumper sticker at the parking lot of DeToy's Saturday: "Trump for president, Hillary for prison." The owner of the pickup might actually live better under the kind of programs that Clinton would promote. But there is this odd sort of cultural tic, a continuation of the old John Bircher-ism.
Republican Richard Nixon gave us the EPA. What different times. At age 61, I remember.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota -bwilly73@yahoo.com

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