Age really doesn’t mean much nowadays

Monday, July 7, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:15 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

There has been a lot of talk this election year about age, as in young versus old. Since a lot of the discussion centers around how many years each presidential candidate has been on the Planet Earth, I never weigh in on it. That’s because I know people who are old at 40 and people who are young at 85. I know people who matured at 18 and people 90 years old who never grew up. I have known individuals who have made remarkably astute decisions when they were only 16 and others who have used incredibly bad judgment at 68. And I’m not nearly as impressed by a person’s experiences as I am by the lessons she learned from them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about mind-set.

It’s about whether one’s feet are firmly planted in the status quo or whether one is open to change. A 15-minute listening session will tell you who is old and who is young.

But as a general rule, older generations rarely hand over the gauntlet to younger generations without a struggle. I can see it as a more difficult decision to make today than yesterday. In the past, serving an apprenticeship under an accredited mentor in whatever field one planned to enter was considered common practice. Nowadays, with so many young people dropping out of high school and entering the workforce with questionable skills and talents, the public tends to be skeptical. Somehow, appointing people who may not be able to read at the fourth-grade level to responsible positions is scary. And the behavior we so often see demonstrated on television sometimes leads us to believe that anyone under the age of 39 shouldn’t be put in charge of anything.

But contrary to what appear to be several lost generations throughout these last few decades, there have been many, many stalwart parents who have invested heavily in their roles as parents and have guided their children into successful careers and productive citizenry. We see and hear way too much about the other types who have allowed their children to rule the households and who are constantly in war with the school systems for not making their children happy.

The whole world is becoming weary of these juvenile parents who view discipline as punishment and think that their child will be accepted because he is American and has money. These are the ones who have become such good friends with their kids that they buy them alcohol or drugs and turn them loose on a public they feel is supposed to put up with them.

Many parents have done an outstanding job of rearing children, often under trying circumstances, who are able to step up to the plate and become leaders in their fields of endeavor. For all the public examples of bad behavior set by politicians, celebrities and sports figures, many young people see these individuals for exactly what they are: spoiled, overrated sociopaths who are the victims of an overly indulgent, disengaged society in search of civilization.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of individual gun owners a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking that if the Founding Fathers could see how we have handled “the noble experiment,” they could easily understand why 218 years after the thirteenth state ratified the U.S. Constitution, in spite of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard and Coast Guard, citizens would still have to keep guns in their homes to defend themselves. Probably, more than a few people have guns simply because they feel that it is their constitutional right rather than out of fear for their lives. I like to think that the founders hoped that we would grow spiritually and intellectually to the point where we might settle our differences in a more civil manner. That certainly says something about age and experience.

But you see, that’s the thing. Some people have horrific memories, but not all of them learn a good lesson from them. Unfortunately, some abused children grow up to become abusers. Some people who were bullied as children grow up to be bullies.

And then there is ever the problem of distinguishing between who people are and who they say they are. Because, after all, some people actually believe the lies they tell themselves. So people young and old share so many of the same vulnerabilities that age is not definitive enough to judge anyone.

Most of the men in my family have served in a branch of the military. Does that mean they are more patriotic than those who have not served. Of course not. Many of them served because they were drafted. Who knows whether they would they have volunteered.

Depending on one’s point of view, I would say we have been both lucky and unlucky in our choices for president. Based on our experience with this system, one might think we could find a more reliable method of selection than perpetuating the existence of two flawed political parties. But once again, we have learned nothing from our experiences.

Wouldn’t it make as much sense if somebody just flipped a coin?

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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