As I seriously approached seniorhood a few years ago, I began observing men a few years older than I to ascertain what type of geezer I might become. While I took note of fun-loving, energetic types that seemed to suck the marrow out of life despite their increasing infirmities and declining abilities, what I observed more and more were men who were bitter, fearful, grumpy, and cantankerous. That was disquieting. Concerned there go I, I swore a personal oath: No matter what, I would not evolve into that sort of man.
Other than an occasional bad day, so far, so good. At least I like to think so.
Having endured Bernie Sanders and the pantheon of Republican also-rans for some ten months now, I can say I’ve completely had it with that type of fellow: arms flailing, fingers pointing, deep and loud voices shouting and talking over the top of others, more interested in making their point rather than listening to and considering others’. I’ve had it so much so I’m not sure if I would even enjoy watching a rerun of the Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon comedy classic, “Grumpy Old Men.” Grumpy old men are no longer funny.
I think of my mother not raising her voice. She didn’t need to. Her children heard her loud and clear. I think of the first teacher with whom I taught, ol’ Mrs. Clark. A shorter woman and grandmother who commanded a giant’s presence. Her students knew better than to push or test her.
For both women, it wasn’t about a lady never raising her voice; it was about feminine power versus in-your-face-face, I’ll-kick-your-butt machismo power. It was about direct, effective, and level-tempered leadership that my siblings and Mrs. Clark’s students understood, not out of fear but out of respect.
That’s the role Harriet Tubman played during the Age of Slavery. She didn’t fight a war in the traditional sense, but she literally and symbolically created and led an underground path to freedom. With her life at risk at every moment, she, nevertheless, persevered quietly, effectively, and resolutely. And with that, she exuded and conveyed confidence and hope.
What a joy then to learn the head conductor of the Underground Railroad, will adorn the twenty-dollar bill. I am hearing a deep, resonating voice softly singing the Civil War spiritual, “Go Down Moses.”
What an elixir for this old man who’s most embarrassed by the cantankerous ones of his peer group, including some with whom I paradoxically agree on issues.
It was heartening too to read about the young woman in the Douglas County School District calling for the resignations of the two Board of Education members who grilled her for ninety minutes without her parents’ consent or awareness. The sixteen-year-old sophomore was apparently planning a rally to protest the dismal way the Dougco district has been treating their teachers, which is leading to considerable attrition. Rather than intimidate her, the board members inspired her. Game on.
It’s important not to fall into the trap of stereotyping. Not all old men are boisterous, cantankerous, unhappy sorts. Far from it. Vice-President Joe Biden is a class act and model in comportment and demeanor. And not all women are of the fearless, persistent, consistent, methodical, deliberative, and resolute types as Tubman. But many are, including one who has an excellent chance of being the first female president of the United States.
Should Hillary Clinton be elected, it would earth-shaking. Yes, Angela Merkel is the German Chancellor, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of England during Ronald Reagan’s administration, and Golda Meir led Israel during the 1970s. Several South American nations have elected female presidents.
But this is the United States, a place where the rough and tough cowboy, individualistic male archetype pervades the culture. A place where John Wayne stands taller than Abraham Lincoln. A place where the O.K. Corral is becoming the symbol and preferred method of conflict resolution for so many.
Harriet Tubman, a black woman once a slave, on one of the most handled pieces of currency. A sixteen-year-old perhaps taking down the once all-powerful conservative Dougco school board. Hillary Clinton, commander-in-chief.
What’s a rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ good ol’ boy to do?
I dunno, but I guess there’s always Coors Lite, NASCAR, and spraying skeet with an Uzi.
RIP: Prince. Thank you for being the creative visionary you were. The rain will always be purple.