Saturday, October 11, 2008

Age and Aspiration

There’s a striking picture in today’s ‘Guardian’ taken from behind, of an elderly man with broad, hunched shoulders, white hair leading to a bald head. It is the Republican candidate for the U.S. Presidency, John McCain who is 72 years old. At the end of his term, if he wins the election, at 76 he will be near to my own age.

Mc Cain has had much governmental experience since becoming a Senator in 1982. He has the reputation of being his own man, sometimes being out of favour with his own party, tenaciously fighting various issues in the Senate that are important to him. He was instrumental in restoring relations with Vietnam in the 1990’s. He is regarded by many of his generation as a war hero. From 1967 to 1973 he was imprisoned by the North Vietnamese, tortured but refused an early repatriation, his war wounds leaving him with lifelong physical limitations. He is an ardent citizen of his own country and speaks of the U.S.A. as a moral force for peace in the world.

Now, these blogs are apolitical. They are intended to reflect on the condition of ageing – on what happens to our bodies but also how we feel as older people and how we keep a sense of belonging to all the generations. The blogs also resist the myth that the young have all the answers to the world’s problems and can manage, thank you, without any help from older people. Experience is important and although the formation of our character and attitudes belong to another world compared to the present age, we still have a social contribution to make, and many of us wish to do so. We are against age-ism. As long as we can, let’s go on doing what we want to do, providing it does no injury to others, and for as long as we want. The great humanitarian Jimmy Carter is doing just that, to the profit of many.

Even so, it does surprise me that a man who is well over 70 wishes to preside over the most powerful nation of the world (if at the moment one that is like many others, in a state of financial turmoil). It will surprise me even more if he is elected.



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