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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Apparently Inclusiveness Doesn't Include Seniors

It used to be about trying to do something.  Now it's about trying to be someone.
Margaret Thatcher 

We appear to live in a space and time where anyone who stands outside of popular public opinion, whatever that may be, is subject to increasing hostility and invisibleness.  Margaret Thatcher said it best, "It used to be about trying to do something.  Now it's about trying to be someone."  

These days the someone everyone wants to be is characterized as progressive, inclusive and enlightened.  But it seems we have become so progressive, inclusive, and enlightened that we now feel empowered to pigeonhole anyone who dares to deviate.  Consider the following excerpt taken from an article written by Dean Obeidallah, a frequent commentator and "voice of inclusion" on various networks including CNN where he argues that people can "evolve over time for the better" in connection to the Paula Dean scandal: 

"Certainly if someone is spouting racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or Islamaphobic comments today, they deserve the punishment they receive--be it losing their job or being cast from mainstream society to the fringes to wallow with the hate mongers."  

Excuse me Mr. Obeidallah, but people can "spout" whatever they want.  Ever heard of the First Amendment or Freedom of Speech?    In addition, I would be careful about suggesting that those who agree with you are more "evolved" than those who do not. This school of thought has been used for discriminatory purposes too many times to count.  

And in all this chatter of tolerance and inclusion, where is the discourse on behalf of seniors?  Apparently those discussions stand  outside of popular opinion or rhetoric.  Apparently it isn't sexy or interesting or even cool to want to talk about seniors or the issues that impact them.  Apparently we aren't as all inclusive and progressive as we like to think.  

Last week I was interviewing a potential guest for Senior Agenda who said she would consider coming on the program but only as long as our audience wasn't "just a bunch of old people with one foot in the grave." I waited for her to realize what she had said and offer an embarrassed apology but she did not.  She kept right on talking.  I asked her if she had ever listened to the program.  I suggested that she do that as soon as possible.  "I am a senior advocate,"  I explained.  "Do you know what it means to be an advocate,"  I asked.  What became clear to me in the conversation that followed was that she understood the word "advocate" as a label void of any action and all complexity.  Her conception of the word started and ended with an empty rendition of political correctness and tolerance.  

I do not tolerate older people.  I work to understand them.  To be an advocate means that you work to effect change where there is injustice and to preserve standing where there is equality.   I do not call myself an advocate because I seek recognition or approval. It's not about me.  It's about seniors. I am willing to work to uncover complexities and then push for what seems to me in the best interest of seniors despite political discord or association.  I am willing to risk ridicule and criticism in an effort to make a difference.

Senior Agenda is all about community and action and advocacy.  It is about honoring and esteeming our elders while fighting to protect those who have out lived their resources including families, finances and friendships.  It is about raising awareness when retirements, pensions, social security, Medicare, and Medicaid are threatened.  It's about getting to the bottom of disproportionate poverty, elder abuse & neglect, and crimes against the elderly.  It's about learning to embrace aging and rejecting negative images and stereotyping about growing older.  It's about wellness and health and happiness.  It's about celebrating seniors.  It's about trying to do something.