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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Where’s our Yoda?

<r Reader: If you’ve read my columns in the past, you know that I have generally tried to be even keeled and thoughtful. I genuinely try not to rant, and to be as pragmatic as possible, and keep my words constructive. Sometimes, however, we need a good rant; to say something that is a little controversial and probably could be said with a little more care but accurately portrays one’s underlying emotions about an issue at a given moment. So here ya go:

Our political system is broken. Political debate is filled with hypocrisy and stupidity, continuously fueled by a sensationalist 24/7 news media and an immature public with the amount of composure and self-insight of a two-year-old. We’ve got people crying about government takeovers yet at the same time staking their claim to Medicare and Social Security. An angry tea partier telling his representative to take your government hands off my Medicare was one example of the absurdity of the conservative discourse in the country. Republicans shriek about deficits and debts, we can’t leave a bill for our children to pay, yet when it comes time to make tough decisions like forming a commission to figure out ways to lower the deficit, seven Republicans who originally sponsored the legislation voted against it!

But believe me, as ridiculous as the Republican Party has become, there’s plenty of blame to go around. It shouldn’t be surprising to see the minority party acting like children, obstructing everything that comes onto the floor; that’s where the political incentives lie. If the minority party is expected to be the children then, it would only seem logical that the majority should act like adults, since they, um, are the ones with the power to actually govern. But the Democrats don’t seem to want to do this either, preferring to squander the largest congressional majority in ages and give control back to the same people that got us in this mess. I guess then, that this is the season our government has decided to turn Washington into Never Never Land, since nobody seems to want to grow up.

And facing the conundrum of a paralyzed political system—with one party playing off of peoples’ emotions and fears and the other insistent on acting like kids sitting at the grown-up table—I am struck by our country’s need and yet consistent lack of elder wisdom. Maybe we’ve lost the importance of community, or maybe my conception of a village elder is simply unrealistic given the connectedness and expansiveness of our nation. Regardless though, I keep feeling that what our society needs more than anything is that senior wisdom that says calm down children, take a breath, everything is going to be alright, stay patient. Yet, the only person trumpeting this message is our 48-year-old President who holds the unfortunate position of consistently being the wisest but youngest person in the room.

In a time when we need our seniors to show the empathy, compassion and patience to help the rest of society chart the way and make important sacrifices, we instead see them being the most vulnerable to the politics of fear.  Those with a lifetime of experience precisely shouldn’t be.  Take the health care reform debate for example. Hilariously, Republicans have been spreading rumors and fears about Medicare getting cut, death panels being created that pull the plug on grandma, and of that God-forsaken word rationing that, ahh, would force the system to use its resources in the most efficient manner possible; what a nightmare!

One might expect, however, that those who have benefited most from two of the Democrats’ biggest legislative achievements, Social Security and Medicare, would see through these arguments. One might believe that those who lived through the conservative demonization of Medicare as a socialist program would recognize the folly of those same claims today. One might hope that the population, old white people, who have benefited more from government than any other, would say wait a minute when subjected to the partisan antics of our politics.

Yet, this is not the case. Instead, a party that always trumpeted maintaining the status quo has as its biggest supporters those who most have reaped the rewards of government change and reform. After living through the enormous changes—economically, politically, and socially—of the last 50 years, it would be understandable for one to have developed a calmer and less volatile emotional perspective of the world. I have no doubt that we have these people, but they are not speaking up like we need them to. Instead we see a senior citizenry that is increasingly fearful of the same people taking things from them who have always given to them. Our elders are not leading like they could, but buying into the shenanigans of the younger and more rambunctious generations. In a society that loves Yoda, I continue to wonder if we’re capable of duplicating that sage wisdom and making it a part of our culture in reality. Now, to those grandparents reading, this is not so much a criticism but a plea for action. We are in desperate need of our elders to guide us with the understanding that only a lifetime can bring, so when are they going to step to the plate? Where’s our Yoda?

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