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Posted by on Mar 13, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

Why Did Forbes Take Down an Article Critical of White Christian Evangelicals?



Two days ago, the online website for Forbes (magazine) took down an article that was critical of White Christian evangelicals.

Why?  I’ll address that in a moment.

I read Forbes on occasion.  It’s not part of in my standard political wheelhouse.  The magazine’s ceaseless cheerleading for American capitalism is repetitive and often cringe-worthy.  Most investment geniuses who make the coveted Forbes cover have crashed and burned when luck runs and market expertise returns to the statistical mean.

However, Forbes is to be credited as a legitimate source for news, information, and opinion.  Forbes adheres to journalistic standards and practices and speaks with an independent voice — at least as independent a voice as a media giant can be headed by someone named Steve Forbes.

I tried to read the article initially posted on Sunday, written by Chris Ladd, who appears to have published an impressive body of credible work in the past.  But when I clicked the Forbes website, I received an “Error 404” message.  That’s the standard code that a webpage is no longer available.  It had been removed.

Of course, that just made me want to read the article all the more.

It was easy to track down the feature article, which raises some legitimate questions about the grotesquely hypocritical evangelical Christian movement.  Since evangelicals constitute a significant percentage of Trump supporters, this strange cult of super believers is a timely topic of discussion.  Certainly, President Trump’s mind-boggling number of moral lapses makes us wonder what evangelicals must be thinking when they seem to ignore all the teachings of their holy book.

Allow me to offer the following theory as to why a well-written, fact-based article with many irrefutable historical references was taken down.  Forbes is a publication and website mostly frequented by conservatives.  Many subscribers aren’t comfortable with having their faith questioned or moral and ethical beliefs put to the test.  Criticism of White Christian evangelicals is taboo in some Right-leaning political circles.  So much for conservatives being the champions of ideas and free expression.  They’re just as hypocritical as everyone else, and on the matter of religion, even more so.

For those interested, here’s the original article which has been cut and pasted for another rogue source.  It’s well worth reading:



Why White Evangelicalism is So Cruel

[by Chris Ladd]

Robert Jeffress, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and an avid supporter of Donald Trump, earned headlines this week for his defense of the president’s adultery with a porn star.  Regarding the affair and subsequent financial payments, Jeffress explained, “Even if it’s true, it doesn’t matter.”

Such a casual attitude toward adultery and prostitution might seem odd from a guy who blamed 9/11 on America’s sinfulness.  However, seen through the lens of white evangelicals’ real priorities, Jeffress’ disinterest in Trump’s sordid lifestyle makes sense.  Religion is inseparable from culture, and culture is inseparable from history.  Modern, white evangelicalism emerged from the interplay between race and religion in the slave states.  What today we call “evangelical Christianity,” is the product of centuries of conditioning, in which religious practices were adapted to nurture a slave economy.  The calloused insensitivity of modern white evangelicals was shaped by the economic and cultural priorities that forged their theology over centuries.

Many Christian movements take the title “evangelical,” including many African-American denominations.  However, evangelicalism today has been co-opted as a preferred description for Christians who were looking to shed an older, largely discredited title: Fundamentalist.  A quick glance at a map showing concentrations of adherents and weekly church attendance reveals the evangelical movement’s center of gravity in the Old South.  And among those evangelical churches, one denomination remains by far the leader in membership, theological pull, and political influence.

There is still today a Southern Baptist Church.  More than a century and a half after the Civil War and decades after the Methodists and Presbyterians reunited with their Yankee neighbors, America’s most powerful evangelical denomination remains defined, right down to the name over the door, by an 1845 split over slavery.

Southern denominations faced enormous social and political pressure from plantation owners. Public expressions of dissent on the subject of slavery in the South were not merely outlawed, they were a death sentence.  Baptist ministers who rejected slavery, like South Carolina’s William Henry Brisbane, were forced to flee to the North.  Otherwise, they would end up like Methodist minister Anthony Bewley, who was lynched in Texas in 1860, his bones left exposed at a local store to be played with by children.  Whiteness offered protection from many of the South’s cruelties, but that protection stopped at the subject of race.  No one who dared speak truth to power on the subject of slavery, or later Jim Crow, could expect protection.

Generation after generation, Southern pastors adapted their theology to thrive under a terrorist state.  Principled critics were exiled or murdered, leaving voices of dissent few and scattered. Southern Christianity evolved in strange directions under ever-increasing isolation.  Preachers learned to tailor their message to protect themselves.  If all you knew about Christianity came from a close reading of the New Testament, you’d expect that Christians would be hostile to wealth, emphatic in the protection of justice, sympathetic to the point of personal pain toward the sick, persecuted and the migrant, and almost socialist in their economic practices.  None of these consistent Christian themes served the interests of slave owners, so pastors could either abandon them, obscure them, or flee.

What developed in the South was a theology carefully tailored to meet the needs of a slave state. Biblical emphasis on social justice was rendered miraculously invisible.  A book constructed around the central metaphor of slaves finding their freedom was reinterpreted.  Messages which might have questioned the inherent superiority of the white race constrained the authority of property owners, or inspired some interest in the poor or less fortunate could not be taught from a pulpit.  Any Christian suggestion of social justice was carefully and safely relegated to “the sweet by and by” where all would be made right at no cost to white worshippers.  In the forge of slavery and Jim Crow, a Christian message of courage, love, compassion, and service to others was burned away.

Stripped of its compassion and integrity, little remained of the Christian message.  What survived was a perverse emphasis on sexual purity as the sole expression of righteousness, along with a creepy obsession with the unquestionable sexual authority of white men.  In a culture where race defined one’s claim to basic humanity, women took on a special religious interest.  Christianity’s historic emphasis on sexual purity as a form of ascetic self-denial was transformed into an obsession with women and sex.  For Southerners, righteousness had little meaning beyond sex, and sexual mores had far less importance for men than for women.  Guarding women’s sexual purity meant guarding the purity of the white race.  There was no higher moral demand.

Changes brought by the Civil War only heightened the need to protect white racial superiority.  Churches were the lynchpin of Jim Crow.  By the time the Civil Rights movement gained force in the South, Dallas’ First Baptist Church, where Jeffress is the pastor today, was a bulwark of segregation and white supremacy.  As the wider culture nationally has struggled to free itself from the burdens of racism, white evangelicals have fought this development while the violence escalated.  What happened to ministers who resisted slavery happened again to those who resisted segregation.  White Episcopal Seminary student, Jonathan Daniels, went to Alabama in 1965 to support voting rights protests.  After being released from jail, he was murdered by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, who was acquitted by a jury.  Dozens of white activists joined the innumerable black Americans murdered fighting for civil rights in the 60’s, but very few of them were Southern.

White Evangelical Christians opposed desegregation tooth and nail.  Where pressed, they made cheap, cosmetic compromises, like Billy Graham’s concession to allow black worshipers at his crusades.  Graham never made any difficult statements on race, never appeared on stage with his “black friend” Martin Luther King after 1957, and he never marched with King.  When King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech,” Graham responded with this passive-aggressive gem of Southern theology, “Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children.”  For white Southern evangelicals, justice and compassion belong only to the dead.

Churches like First Baptist in Dallas did not become stalwart defenders of segregation by accident.  Like the wider white evangelical movement, it was then and remains today an obstacle to Christian notions of social justice thanks to a long, dismal heritage.  There is no changing the white evangelical movement without a wholesale reconsideration of their theology.  No sign of such a reckoning is apparent.

Those waiting to see the bottom of white evangelical cruelty have little source of optimism.  Men like Pastor Jeffress can dismiss Trump’s racist abuses as easily as they dismiss his fondness for porn stars.  When asked about Trump’s treatment of immigrants, Jeffress shared these comments:

Solving DACA without strengthening borders ignores the teachings of the Bible.  In fact, Christians who support open borders, or blanket amnesty, are cherry-picking Scriptures to suit their own agendas.

For those unfamiliar with Christian scriptures, it might help to point out what Jesus reportedly said about this subject, and about the wider question of our compassion for the poor and the suffering:

Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.

What did Jesus say about abortion, the favorite subject of Jeffress and the rest of the evangelical movement?  Nothing.   What does the Bible say about abortion, a practice as old as civilization?  Nothing.  Not one word.  The Bible’s exhortations to compassion for immigrants and the poor stretch long enough to comprise a sizeable book of their own, but no matter.  White evangelicals will not let their political ambitions be constrained by something as pliable as scripture.

Why is the religious right obsessed with subjects like abortion while unmoved by the plight of immigrants, minorities, the poor, the uninsured, and those slaughtered in pointless gun violence? No white man has ever been denied an abortion.  Few if any white men are affected by the deportation of migrants.  White men are not kept from attending college by laws persecuting Dreamers.  White evangelical Christianity has a bottomless well of compassion for the interests of straight white men, and not a drop to be spared for anyone else at their expense.  The cruelty of white evangelical churches in politics, and in their treatment of their own gay or minority parishioners, is no accident.  It is an institution born in slavery, tuned to serve the needs of Jim Crow, and entirely unwilling to confront either of those realities.

Men like Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy group, are trying to reform the Southern Baptist church in increments, much like Billy Graham before him.  His statements on subjects like the Confederate Flag and sexual harassment are bold, but only relative to previous church proclamations.  He’s still about three decades behind the rest of American culture in recognition of the basic human rights of the country’s non-white, non-male citizens. Resistance he is facing from evangelicals will continue so long as the theology informing white evangelical religion remains unconsidered and unchallenged.

While white evangelical religion remains dedicated to its roots, it will perpetuate its heritage.  What this religious heritage produced in the 2016 election, when white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump by a record margin, is the truest expression of its moral character.

You will know a tree by its fruit.


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Posted by on Feb 24, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Politics, What's Left | 3 comments

American Conservatives are Un-American



At the annual CPAC convention yesterday, a speaker talking about the beauty of naturalization-citizenship ceremonies drew loud, sustained booing.  Here’s my reaction.


Twenty-two years ago, Marieta Dalla officially became an American citizen.

That was a proud moment for her.  She immigrated to the United States from her native Romania, earned a college degree, and then worked at The Learning Channel for a decade.  She studied the citizenship test handbook so vigilantly that she memorized it.  Marieta knew more about the U.S. Constitution than I did.

In March 1996, Marieta joined some 200 other law-abiding immigrants with origins from all over the world at a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C.  This was their big day.  They raised their right hands and took the Oath of Allegiance.  Then, the entire room sang the national anthem together.  Many had tears streaming down their faces.  There were handshakes.  There were hugs.  There was a celebration.

The naturalization ceremonies held in Washington were and perhaps still are just a bit different from similar rituals held in other parts of the country.  The nation’s capital tends to draw more political refugees and asylum cases.  In short, many of these legal immigrants endured brutal hardships prior to arriving in the United States.  Some risked their lives.  Some made excruciating personal decisions to leave their families behind.  But pain and fear were in the past.  Becoming an American citizen meant unlimited future possibilities and new hope.

I recalled those indelible memories when I read yesterday that a speaker was booed loudly at the CPAC convention when speaking precisely about naturalization ceremonies for citizenship.

CPAC is the largest annual gathering of political conservatives in the country.  It’s the All-Star game for the conservative movement.  This isn’t some fringe group.  It’s as mainstream “conservative” as it gets.  The current President of the United States was the keynote speaker.  He followed the head of the National Rifle Association who made a rambling speech that stirred the crowd into a frenzy.  While CPAC might not represent the views of every conservative person in America, it has unmistakably become the face of today’s conservative movement.

READ MORE:  Speaker relating beauty of naturalization ceremonies is loudly booed at CPAC

Friday’s shocking episode exposes the ugly depths to which the conservative movement has fallen in recent years.  This isn’t the political philosophy illuminated by the Statue of Liberty.  It’s no longer guided by the wisdom of Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville.  Conservativism has been highjacked by Donald Trump, Wayne LaPierre, and Sean Hannity.  It’s something unrecognizable to good people.  It’s un-American.

Yes, the debate over illegal immigration and what to do about refugees fleeing war zones needs to happen.  Reasonable people can discuss this respectfully and must do so.  Compelling arguments can be made by both sides.

However, there is no debate about the majesty of legal immigration, which has essentially been the people engine that created modern America.  At least there never was a debate — until now.  Keep in mind what was booed at CPAC wasn’t illegal immigration.  It was official ceremonies that welcome new citizens who waited for years and followed the law.  They jeered naturalized citizens like Marieta and countless other arrivals who weren’t blessed like so many of us to be born in this country.  Ironically, they were also, though indirectly booing two of Donald Trumps three wives.   

My fellow Americans, let call this what it truly is — PURE HATE.


Photo Credit:  Marieta on one of her proudest days immediately after her naturalization ceremony, on the Washington Mall in 1996.


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Posted by on Feb 19, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Rants and Raves, What's Left | 7 comments

The Worst Idea in Response to School Shootings



Ten Solid Reasons Why the Proposal to “Put More Guns in Schools” is a Really Bad Idea


Many suggestions are floating around about the ways we might stop mass shootings and reduce gun violence in our schools.

Some of these ideas are rational and resourceful.  Most are well-intended.  However, a few suggestions currently spreading across social media are so dangerous that they must be resisted and flat-out rejected.

Unquestionably, the very worst idea of all is to put more guns into schools.  This is ludicrous.

Two specific proposals are now gaining traction with many gun advocates.  One proposal is to arm classroom teachers.  The other is to hire and train more security personnel, a force presumably to be comprised of former and retired military personnel and law enforcement.

A narrow examination of gun violence in schools may give a false impression that arming those who can best be trusted to handle the responsibility is a logical defense.  If only some teacher had a handgun, he/she might have been able to kill the deadly student intruder who murdered 17 students in Parkland, Florida.  The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun — the popular saying goes.

Trouble is, the issue of gun violence in schools isn’t so simple.  In fact, preventing any of the 465 deadly shootings that have occurred in American schools requires far more than just additional firepower.  Moreover, putting more guns into the hands of civilians would inevitably lead to far more gun accidents, deadly acts of escalating violence, and a multitude of other unforeseeable consequences.  Either proposal would also cost taxpayers a fortune at a time when many municipalities and school districts are going broke and we can’t find enough money to pay teachers a livable wage.

In short, the notion that introducing more guns to solve the gun and mental health problem in schools is preposterous.  Here are ten reasons why:

[1]  It’s not a deterrent:  Proponents of arming school teachers and/or hiring more security personnel incorrectly assume emotionally-disturbed mass murderers are deterred by a show of force.  However, based on virtually every school shooting and mass killing in modern American history, this has proven to be demonstrably false.  Most crazed shooters had a death wish.  Even during the planning stages, most knew they were going to die in the final blaze of gunfire.  It’s one reason why many killers wore bullet-proof vests.  Would-be mass murderers with complicated mental problems do not think, nor act logically.  Increasing the number of armed people at schools will not deter a madman.

[2]  Most schools are too big to patrol efficiently:  Proponents overstate the chances armed security would successfully catch and confront a suspect before the shooting starts.  Most schools, especially high schools where recent massacres have taken place, are large multi-story buildings with lots of space to patrol.  They have numerous classrooms and corridors, with multiple entrances and exits.  Unless we station a National Guard unit inside every school in America, the vast majority of campuses are vulnerable and cannot be protected against a deranged gunman who is determined to kill.

[3]  It’s impossible to defend against the element of surprise:  Proponents mistakenly assume that teachers and security personnel would be able to maintain a perpetual “ready” status against an attack.  More likely, over time, most schools would become complacent about security details, which is only natural.  After all, children attend school to learn and socialize, not be fearful and remain in a constant state of alert against being murdered.  Millions of guns in the hands of math teachers is no defense against the element of surprise.  Even the most powerful armies in the world with the best-trained soldiers have frequently been caught off guard and attacked.  Schools, with hundreds of students, constantly coming and going and moving about are not places where armed protection is practical or feasible.

[4]  Accidents will happen:  There are approximately 3.4 million school teachers in America.  Arming a sizable number of them would inevitably result in an incalculable number of accidents.  Many teachers are unfamiliar with guns.  They know little about gun safety.  Even with proper training, mistakes will happen.  After all, everyone passes a driving test, but there are still thousands of bad, unsafe drivers on the road and traffic accidents happen every day.  Hence, training provides no guarantees.  Loaded guns will occasionally get lost, stolen, or commandeered.  People are imperfect.  They’re forgetful.  Adding millions of loaded guns into schools is a recipe for disaster.

[5]  Many schools are already violent; adding guns will make things worse:   Last year, about 200,000 teachers were physically attacked by students.  Now, imagine if each of those teachers was carrying a loaded handgun.  What would happen in some cases when an older, possibly fragile teacher gets assaulted by an angry teen with an emotional disorder or behavioral problem?  Out of the 200,000 actual attacks last year, some percentage of violent teens would likely have wrestled a gun from the teacher if he/she was armed.  Then, what might have happened?  In a rage, some students would kill teachers and other students.  This kind of nightmare scenario would become commonplace if guns were placed inside classrooms.

[6]  Armed security personnel would also be prone to more gun accidents:  Proponents presume that armed patrols at schools, largely made up of people with strong military and law enforcement backgrounds, would be responsible with guns.  They’re right.  Most would be responsible.  However, some would not.  Statistics show that in incidents when police officers were shot, about 8 percent were hit by their own gun.  When physical confrontations occur, sometimes the bad guys get control of a weapon and fire in the heat of the moment.  Schools tend to have more physical altercations than the rest of society.  Arming security guards isn’t a solution to reducing violence.  It would likely increase the number of accidents.

[7]  Inexperienced people with guns are more likely to create collateral damage:  Many teachers and security guards would attempt to do the right thing and be brave in case of an attack.  Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority lack the training and skill set to make a quick life-or-death decision in the midst of a crisis.  Imagine the number of incidents where teachers and security perceive a threat that isn’t really there?  How might a teacher react to a student swinging a knife, for instance?  What to do?  Then, what about the rare occasion when a shot is justifiable as an act of self-defense?  Is putting a gun into the hands of a 59-year-old English teacher in a crowded classroom filled with screaming children really a solution to a maniac blasting with a loaded AR-15?  Chances are, guns will be pulled out and shot by people lacking the skills to use them, likely killing more innocents.

[8]  The human breakage factor:  Sadly, most people have personal troubles.  We all carry emotional problems to work.  We all have family problems occasionally.  Like everyone else from truck drivers to postal workers, teachers and security personnel are just as vulnerable to emotional breakdowns, sometimes even more prone to stressful environments.  They go through painful divorces.  They suffer from depression.  They have drug and alcohol issues.  Some people can’t take it and simply break.  Putting millions of guns into the hands of any segment of society is a bad idea, but particularly dangerous when around many children.  The number of opioid abuses in this country numbers in the millions.  The number of veterans suffering from some form of PTSD is perhaps incalculable and a national embarrassment.  Some of those who would prospectively be hired would also suffer from these problems.  Arming more people will not reduce deaths.  It will create far worse tragedy.

[9]  The cost would be staggering:  The cost of buying and maintaining guns, ammunition, secure safes, and other necessary equipment would be high.  However, the cost of hiring perhaps a million security officers to staff and patrol more than a quarter-million schools in America would be outrageous.  Then, there’s the expense of training employees, oversight, and management —  not to mention the astronomical premium for insurance coverage (every school in the United States would have to carry insurance against gun accidents).  The budget for these proposals would most certainly bankrupt most school districts, providing no appreciable benefits.  Already, we’re having a hard time paying teachers and getting school supplies.  Burdening taxpayers with such a wasteful expense with so many other priorities would be grotesque negligence.

[10]  Schools are educational institutions, not military camps:  Schools are for education.  They aren’t military bases.  Moreover, we need to stop constructing our schools to look like prisons because when we do, students will behave like inmates.  Check out the exteriors of schools in most inner cities.  They look like fortresses.  Then, take a look at urban schools in Europe and other countries where education and social welfare are integrated into daily life — where student acts of violence are practically non-existent.  Armed teachers and security forces patrolling hallways with loaded weapons sends a disturbing message to young people.  It creates a false impression that guns are necessary in order to truly feel secure.  Sure, armed protection is necessary at some places, such as banks and airports.  Guns are the antithesis of an atmosphere for education.

So, arming teachers and hiring armed security patrols produces no deterrent to crazed shooters plotting an attack.  It inevitably creates more gun accidents during down times.  It fails to protect children in cases when actual shootings occur.  It costs a ridiculous amount of money we don’t have.  It sends a terrible message to our children.

Instead, a far better solution to gun violence is doing what we can to reduce the number of guns in our society and ending the pathological fascination with guns in our culture, once and for all.  The solution is to renounce destructive organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA), which time and time again squash all proposed measures of reasonable gun safety when they’re proposed.  The solution is to get politically active right now and vote for candidates who favor some restrictions on gun purchases and the rights of ownership.  The mentally-disturbed kid who murdered 17 teens purchased five guns within the past year — all legally.

That’s outrageous!

This is a tall task ahead of us.  It starts with a movement like we’re seeing from high school students in Parkland, who now say, “enough is enough.”

Gun violence in schools will not be reduced by arming our teachers nor by hiring ex-law enforcement to patrol the hallways.  More guns isn’t the solution any more than a blaze is extinguished by adding more fire.


ADDENDUM 1:  There’s actually another good reason, #11 (as noted by reader Stephen Blackstock)…..”Armed teachers make the job of first responders way more difficult and dangerous….first responders like SWAT teams do not know the scope of the threat.  Having an armed person in every classroom that has to be methodically cleared would be a nightmare.”

ADDENDUM 2:  There’s a #12.  Assuming proponents are correct, and armed school staff reduces gun violence, evidence points to mass murderers transferring their rage to attractive targets elsewhere — such as movie theaters. Armed schools won’t stop gun violence.  But it could make other public places more vulnerable.

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Posted by on Feb 16, 2018 in Blog, Politics, What's Left | 3 comments

A Friendly Little Message to Trump’s #FakeNews Crowd



So, for the terrible many of you, all those confused souls and deniers who have been protesting all this time, screaming that the FBI’s Russia investigation is “fake news,” I’d like to offer a friendly little recommendation:














Have a wonderful day!


#takeresponsbility #realnews

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Posted by on Feb 8, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Politics, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Is Age Just a Number?



Question:  How Old is “Too Old” to be President?


Most of us agree — discrimination is wrong.

Discrimination, whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation or any other human characteristic is a bad thing.  We must stand up for the rights of everyone.

Trouble is, we don’t stand up for everyone.

Take older people for instance.  What about the rights of seniors?  When do we draw a line and say to someone — you’re too old?

65?  70?  75?  80?  When?

Clearly, all ages should not be considered as equals.  Some people are too young to do certain things.  Everyone understands why age-minimums are necessary.  No one wants to see a 7-year-old behind the wheel of a car.  Kids shouldn’t be able to buy a bottle of vodka.  Children should be forbidden from working in coal mines.  So, age restrictions can be good thing.  Laws are designed to protect young people from hurting themselves, and harming society.  There’s near-universal agreement on this, at least in this country.

However, lot’s of fully-capable older people are forced to end careers and retire early.  Maximum age restrictions apply to many occupations, presumably to protect public safety.  Some examples of this include forced retirement for airline pilots, air traffic controllers, and law enforcement personnel.  Again, there seems to be near universal agreement on age maximums in the greater interest of society.

As the 2020 presidential election draws near, ageism could become a major issue.  Two possible Democratic challengers, perhaps the early front runners, will both be in their late 70’s should they decide to run.  Former Vice President Joe Biden will be nearly 78 if he’s elected, making him 82 at the end of a prospective first term.  Senator Bernie Sanders, still quite popular with many progressives, would assume office at age 79.  That would make him 83 at the end of a first term, should he win and survive four years in office.

This begs the question:  Is someone in his or her 70’s (or 80’s) too old to be president?

We might be jaded on this question based on history.  We’re spooked by memories of what happened within the last century when at least four older men were elected to the presidency.

Ronald Reagan suffered from the early stages of dementia during the final few years in office.  Dating back earlier, Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack and was incapacitated for several months.  Woodrow Wilson was totally debilitated by a massive stroke and couldn’t perform his normal duties for more than a year.  Franklin Roosevelt died early in his fourth term.  History shows that old presidents don’t fare well.  No president in history has ever held office in his 80’s.

We’ve seen how the stress of the nation’s highest office ages perfectly healthy men far beyond the normal cycle of calendar years.  Consider two famous photographs of President Abraham Lincoln — the first one taken just a few years before he took office (in 1858), and the second photo showing his face just seven years later a short time before his death (in 1865):



These two photos of Lincoln, taken less than a decade apart are striking, perhaps even scary.  The second photo shows a worn out man appearing perhaps 20 years older.  One might even surmise the second portrait is the father of the first.

However, we don’t live in the 1860’s anymore.  We’ve made considerable progress in health and medicine since then.  People of means with access to good health care live longer and healthier lives than people in earlier times.  In 1900, the average American male who survived childbirth had a life expectancy of 46.  By 1915, it was 56.  By 1941, it was 66.  In 1975, it was 76.  Today, it’s about 78.

So, there’s both good news and bad news for Biden and Sanders.  The good news is….both may be perfectly fit for office, mentally and physically.  The bad news is….by the time either president-elect gets sworn in, statistically speaking, he should already be dead.

Hypocrisy abounds, not just in how our popular culture often portrays senior citizens as feeble and incapable, but also how the most important functions of government usually rely on people with lots of experience.  This is a glaring contradiction.  Polls suggest a sizable percentage of voters wouldn’t support an older candidate, blatantly citing concerns about age.  However, members of the Supreme Court have the option of fulfilling appointments for life, should they chose to do so.  Since the founding of the republic, some of our greatest jurists were seniors who rendered extraordinary judicial decisions which greatly enhanced the quality of life for millions in this country, and their descendants.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, who fought in the Civil War as a young man, was eventually appointed to the Supreme Court by Teddy Roosevelt.  He later served as Chief Justice until 1930.  Holmes rendered some of his most respected judicial pronouncements while in his 70’s and 80’s.  No one questioned Holmes’ abilities, even up until his retirement from the bench at the ripe old age of 90.  Why would Holmes’ years of wisdom be cherished as an asset while labeling some prospective presidential candidates today as too old?  To this day, many consider Holmes as one of the greatest minds ever to serve in government.  So, why not grant Biden or Sanders the same opportunity and consideration?  So long as they appear healthy and are given a clean bill of health, shouldn’t they be given the benefit of doubt?

Fact is, today ageism has become the last acceptable form of open discrimination in America.  Whether we admit it or not, most of us make unfair assumptions and sweeping generalizations about older people solely based upon their age.  While most of us wouldn’t care if the doctor performing an operation was white or black, male or female, straight or gay — if questioned most of us would likely prefer the surgeon who’s 45 versus the one who’s 75.

Given the critical role personality plays in social media and how politics is viewed as mass entertainment, campaigning (and governing) have became a continuous loop of theatrics.  Donald Trump created a new era of 24/7 political reality television.  Now, there may be no turning back to boring, studious, wonkish leadership.  From this point forward, the lines between governing and entertaining might be indistinguishable.  Given what’s happened, popular entertainers may be the best examples of what to expect if an octogenarian were to assume the presidency.  Many of our most popular entertainers continue to act, sing, dance, and tell jokes well into their 80’s and even 90’s.  Some haven’t lost a step and don’t miss a beat.  Apparently, we don’t discriminate based on age when it comes to the things that amuse us.  But governing may be a different matter.

To be clear, I too have concerns about electing an old person to such an important position of leadership.  Biden and Sanders might be too old to run, and certainly would carry the baggage of mass concern should either end up winning.  I too find myself silently thinking, “Gee, I wish they were 20 years younger.  I’m not sure I can vote for a 78-year-old.”  Admittedly, that’s discrimination.

While age may be “just a state of mind” as the familiar saying goes, in reality everyone’s number comes with preconceptions, whether deserved or not.  Ageism is indeed the last widespread form of discrimination.


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