Recently someone placed a post on Facebook that read, “I don’t want anyone over 65 years of age making decisions for me.” Usually, I will ignore posts such as this one, but this time I found it rather disconcerting. I believe this is one of the only countries in the world where the elderly is disrespected in the manner of the person who posted that ridiculous statement. There is a saying that “with age comes knowledge.” But we must add “sometimes” because we have experienced a man who is over seventy and seems to have the mentality of a teenager, and that is the Impeached President Trump. There are exceptions to the rule. But for the most part, as you grow older and experience life your knowledge increases. Not necessarily through educational achievement, but just having lived through some good and bad times.
Most elderly Americans have experienced all of the up’s and down’s over the last sixty years. We lived through the very few Camelot years of President John F. Kennedy with his classic wife, Jacqueline. During his very short time as President the country felt a new renaissance, a feeling that we could all prosper as a nation. But that light began to wane in June 1962 with the assassination of Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, followed the next year with the assassination of President Kennedy. From then on, the clouds became darker and more ominous. In 1965 we had the escalation of the Vietnam War and the assassination of Malcolm X. Finally, in 1968 we had the assassination of the prince of peace, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., followed two months later with the killing of Bobby Kennedy.
Not only did we experience a series of assassinations in the 1960’s, but we also witnessed on television, or for many people in person, the brutal attacks on Black Americans throughout the South. In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama became the center of that brutality with the sadistic Police Commissioner Eugene Bull Connors, ordering his police force to use attack dogs and powerful fire hoses to dispel men, women, and children attempting peaceful protests. That same year in September, bombs exploded in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in that city killing four little girls, and later that day two young black boys were also assaulted and murdered. But interspersed with all this negative was the famous March on Washington for Peace at which Dr. King made his incredibly famous speech, articulated in a dream of solidarity someday in this country.
All these occurrences happened in the sixties when those of us who are now considered over 65 were young and impressionable. They did affect our thinking, and for the most part, I believe in a positive way. We were familiar with the ugliness that hate can cause, and so when we watched that hatred at the Capitol over the past week, we knew just how devastating it could be to the psychic of our country. But we also know that our country has the ability to overcome this negativity and move toward a more positive outlook on our future because we have experienced both the good and the bad. Does that mean we are more qualified to make decisions that affect the lives of those under 65? Not particularly, but it does mean that we have experienced many of the good and bad of our country, and for most of us, we can place what is happening today in a better perspective than those who have not shared the same historically common experiences as the elderly.