Friday, February 9, 2024

Ageism At Its Worst

Paul Krugman:

When the news broke about the special counsel’s hit job — his snide, unwarranted, obviously politically motivated slurs about President Biden’s memory — I found myself thinking about my mother. What year did she die? It turned out that I didn’t know offhand; I knew that it was after I moved from Princeton to CUNY, because I was regularly commuting out to New Jersey to see her, but before the pandemic. I actually had to look into my records to confirm that she died in 2017.

I’ll bet that many readers are similarly vague about the dates of major life events. You remember the circumstances, but not necessarily the precise year. And whatever you think of me, I’m pretty sure I don’t write or sound like an old man. The idea that Biden’s difficulty in pinning down the year of his son’s death shows his incapacity — in the middle of the Gaza crisis! — is disgusting.

As it happens, I had an hourlong off-the-record meeting with Biden in August. I can’t talk about the content, but I can assure you that he’s perfectly lucid, with a good grasp of events. And outside that personal experience, on several occasions when I thought he was making a serious misjudgment — like his handling of the debt ceiling crisis — he was right and I was wrong.

And my God, consider his opponent. When I listen to Donald Trump’s speeches, I find myself thinking about my father, who died in 2013 (something else I had to look up). During his last year my father suffered from sundowning: He was lucid during the day, but would sometimes become incoherent and aggressive after dark. If we’re going to be doing amateur psychological diagnoses of elderly politicians, shouldn’t we be talking about a candidate who has confused Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi and whose ranting and raving sometimes reminds me of my father on a bad evening?

So to everyone who’s piling on Biden right now, stop and look in the mirror. And ask yourself what you are doing.

When I wrote a Facebook post marking the anniversary of my mom’s death, I got the date wrong.  I remember well the date that Allen died — June 8 — but I often have to check to remember the year: 2018.  What year did I finish my PhD?  I have to glance at the diploma on the wall to double-check (1988).

I’m 71, and I consider myself in full control of my faculties.  I still do the New York Times crossword puzzles in ink, and I still remember events in my life with a clarity to the point that other family members consider me to be the source authority.  But with all those years of data, some stuff slips in between the files.

So I concur with Dr. Krugman, but I’ll be a bit more blunt:  Shut the fuck up.


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