Saturday, October 31, 2020

Waiting for the Answer

I don't know about you, but lately, I find myself lying awake some nights, just worrying about what's going to happen. I know it's not helpful to worry (or to lose sleep), but things seem so out of place and so uncertain.  I'm not sure what to do about it. Part of it is the ongoing pandemic-- it seems almost everyone knows someone who contracted the virus, or we worry about getting it ourselves. Friends of mine are out of work, stores I used to go to have gone out of business, and even in states where the numbers of cases were declining, now they're rising again.  

But it's not just the pandemic that has many of us worrying. I'll admit that what really makes me uneasy is the upcoming presidential election, only a couple of days from now.  We may or may not not know the results on November 3rd, but what concerns me the most is what comes next. As a Democrat, of course I hope Joe Biden wins, but I have friends who are still supporting this president (for reasons I admit I don't entirely understand), and they hope the president is re-elected. In either case, large numbers of folks are not going to be happy with the result.

Normally, that wouldn't worry me; it happens after every election, and then we move on. But the past three years haven't been normal. This president has done little to bring us together. In fact, he has regularly made hateful remarks about Democrats ever since he took office. Every day, my conservative friends, who get much of their information from whatever the president says, amplified by whatever right-wing commentators tell them, hear relentlessly horrible stuff about those of us in Blue States. They also hear mainstream reporters attacked and demonized, along with anyone (Republican or Democrat) who doesn't show sufficiently loyalty to Mr. Trump.

To those who love this president, he's amazing-- he says he conquered COVID-19, and he says a cure is on the way. The rest of us see things very differently-- we believe he has no plan, and we wish he hadn't marginalized the experts. And we believe he is putting the health and safety of his supporters at risk by holding large rallies, even during a pandemic, as if to show that what he wants (and needs) is more important than protecting the health of the nation. And no matter what happens on November 3rd, he has so demonized mask-wearing (and social distancing) that large numbers of people now refuse to do it.

So, if he loses, will he leave peacefully? He has refused to say that he will. Will his supporters accept that "their guy" lost?  Some are already making threats; I hope it's just talk, but what if it's not? And in a world where inflammatory rhetoric and conspiracy theories have been mainstreamed, will we as a country-- both sides-- be able to reestablish trust in government, and restore trust in each other? It may take time, but can we go back to treating each other respectfully, and not insulting each other when we disagree? Can we work together to address the pandemic and heal the problems this chaotic presidency has left us? These are the things that keep me up at night, and I don't think I'm alone.    

We are living in difficult and potentially dangerous times. I'm basically optimistic, and I want to believe we'll be okay. I want to believe we'll recover. I want to believe the past few years, with the anger and the insults and the hatefulness, will soon be over. But to be honest, I don't know what's going to happen. I just hope (and pray) that our democracy and the institutions we've relied upon, the ones many of us believe this president has corrupted, haven't been too damaged. We've been through difficult times before, and somehow we've survived. I'm sure we'll survive this too. And whichever side you are on, I just hope we can be friends when all is said and done. Being enemies is just too exhausting. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

You're Only As Young As You Feel

I was thinking about Bucky Pizzarelli the other day. In fact, I gave him a shout-out when I was a guest on WEEU radio's "Talk It Out" with Dan and Tyler on October 8th. We were paying tribute to some celebrity musicians we lost in 2020, beginning with the legendary and deeply-missed Neil Peart of Rush, and proceeding through the year to Eddie Van Halen. (You can listen to it here:  

But as I went through the list of other musicians who left us in 2020, in among the bigger names like Charlie Daniels and Helen Reddy and Kenny Rogers, there was Bucky Pizzarelli, a widely-respected jazz guitarist, whose music I used to play when I worked at a jazz radio station in New York in the mid-1970s. He died of COVID-19 on April 1, at age 94. He was still performing well into his late 80s, and was someone who never let his advancing age (or arthritis, or anything else) stop him, as you can see in this music video from 2012, when he was about 86.

As some of you know, I have a friend named Judy Valentine. She is a former radio singer and children's show co-host on TV. She's 96, and sharp as can be. She still loves to entertain, but since the pandemic, she can't go to the activities she used to attend. She misses that. She has told me she sometimes wishes she could find some part-time work, something where she could still make people happy. But let's be honest-- in our culture, we don't quite seem to know what to do with older people, especially those in their 80s or 90s. Agreed, some are frail and suffer from various illnesses. But others are not, and all they want is to still feel useful, in a society that continues to worship youth.  

Stereotypes about "the elderly" (or the euphemistic "senior citizens") still permeate popular culture. While Alzheimer's is a tragic, and thus far incurable, disease (and many of us know people who suffered from it), not every older person has it. When someone forgets something, as all of us have done at one time or other, that doesn't mean the person is on the way to cognitive decline.  Yet, it still seems a common belief that older people are no longer capable, because they've "lost a step." Agreed, someone in their 80s probably can't perform brain surgery; but I've run into some older folks who are even more intelligent (and have a lot more common sense) than people who are much younger.         

The other day, Pres. Trump sent around a doctored photo of Joe Biden, photoshopped to make it seem like he was sitting in a nursing home, in a wheelchair.  Mr. Trump's supporters probably thought it was hilarious; I mean, it's a common discourse on the right that Mr. Biden is elderly and senile (he is neither). I not only didn't think it was funny-- I thought it was sad, because it confirmed all the stereotypes about older people.  Whether you're a fan of Mr. Biden or not, he's still out there doing what he loves, and doing it effectively. Is he the same politician that he was 30 years ago? Probably not, but why is that the standard? He has continued to keep up with changing times, and he has continued to keep himself relevant. I think that's commendable.

And that's why I admire people like Bucky Pizzarelli, who did what he loved for as long as he could do it-- he played music and he made people happy. Instead of marginalizing people who are aging, we should give them the chance to perform at their best, whether in entertainment or business or politics or whatever. I've long believed we sell people short when we stereotype them based on their age.  There's a quote attributed to baseball legend Dizzy Dean, and while it may be apocryphal, it has some truth to it: he supposedly said, "I ain't what I used to be, but who the hell is?"  My point exactly.