Respect the elderly, but respect the young, too

Detroit Free Press writer Mitch Albom made some confusing statements in his column last weekend, “Opinion: Criticizing the old isn’t cute, it’s an insulting–and growing–trend.

I’ll share with you what I think is Mitch’s overall point:

Most importantly, if we revered the old for what they’ve endured, the sacrifices they’ve made, and the years they’ve spent contributing, we’d be less freaked out about aging ourselves.

Old is news. But while criticizing politicians is a daily pastime now (I get it, I’m guilty of it myself) we should separate ideology from chronology. Biden may or may not be a good president, but I understand when he says the one thing that comes with age is “wisdom.”

Another ought to be respect. Enough with the “old dude” monikers, or the “Q-Tip” jokes. You can’t live in a society where you scream about sensitivity, then ignore it for those who should be your most esteemed citizens.

I don’t have an issue with Albom’s point that we should treat our elders with the respect they’ve earned. Perhaps it’s just the person I am, or also how I was brought up, but I always treat older people with respect. I usually call them “Sir,” or “Ma’am,” too!

And in the end, we should always respect everyone with the respect they’ve earned.

Ah, but there’s something Mitch forgot to type while lamenting how these darned kids and their rock n’ roll: Respect the young, too.

Everyone has to earn that respect.

Mitch says “wisdom” comes with age. Perhaps for some, but not for others.

He criticized Michigan Democratic State Senator Mallory McMorrow for tweeting after 81-year old Kentucky Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suffered another freezing episode:

Anyone who witnessed McConnell’s freezing watched it with alarming sadness.

Of course, I’m no Mitch McConnell fan! He’s done so much to damage this country for years that we will continue dealing with its ramifications long after he’s left this earth. But I’m also human, and I don’t want to watch another deteriorate right before my eyes. I also detest those who work for, and with, McConnell, who refuse to tell him that it’s time to step aside because they’ll lose power once he does step down.

Same for Democratic California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is now 88 years old, and absolutely has zero business still holding that seat. And I feel sorry for the many Californians, who could’ve had not only a more progressive senator representing them, but a functioning senator representing them!

Father Time catches all of us, eventually. No one escapes it.

What State Senator McMorrow conveyed was her belief that our country and our values are so messed-up that we expect people to work to death. Literally!

It doesn’t have to be that way.

We shouldn’t have to work into our 70’s unless we want to, of course. But what she’s absolutely correct that watching national figures like McConnell or Feinstein slowly fade isn’t to celebrated. It’s to point-out how much we must begin caring for the elderly.

Even more, it’s a sign that some people cling to power far too long at the detriment of those they are serving.

Now, after pointing-out how many celebrities, scientists, statespeople, and influencers have made major contributions into their 70’s and 80’s (which is true), Mitch tries to put McMorrow in her place:

Telling people to stop by a certain age is not only insulting, it’s harmful to society. McMorrow is 37. She was born in 1986. She’s never lived in a world where American kids were drafted or a U.S. president resigned in disgrace. She was a toddler when the Cold War ended. She wasn’t around when nuclear power plants were first created.

People in their 70s and 80s have lived through all of that. Their experience might be precious when history starts repeating itself.

I get what Mitch is saying, and yes, it’s not a bad idea to engage with people who’ve lived experiences we can’t necessarily comprehend. They can offer you insight in a life that is forever relegated to the past, or that is in danger of repeating itself.

But it’s a two-way street.

Just as the Baby Boomer generation lived through many experiences, like war, sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, civil rights, political assassinations, and presidential scandals, Millennials and Generation Z are doing just the same. Perhaps one major difference is that their schools have become war zones at an all too common rate.

Each generation deals with its issues of the time. While Baby Boomers certainly lived in times of turmoil, so too are Millennials and Generation Z. They’ve lived through economic collapses, recessions, attacks on reproductive rights, rampant gun violence, increasingly destructive storms brought on by climate change, cuts in education, cuts in infrastructure, and attacks for some people expressing the very people they are.

Baby Boomers (and let’s throw-in the Silent Generation, too) have to quit being dismissive of the changing culture happening all around them. Many of them refuse to budge on LGBTQ+ rights, or sadly, have declared war on the LGBTQ+ community. And many of them believe teaching students basic American History, including slavery, the genocide caused against Native Americans, and the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights should forever be banned.

According to Pew Research, Trump held a 16-point advantage over Biden by the Silent Generation in the 2020 election. Baby Boomers voted for Trump by a four-point margin over Biden.

Meanwhile, Millennials and Generation Z handed Biden a 20-point win over Trump. That’s an astounding margin, and that tells me the younger generations are trying to save us from fascism, while saving our planet, reinvesting in families, and strengthening workers of the future by supporting unions and paid family leave.

If these elderly are so wise, they’d know that change is inevitable, and that voting for someone promising a life they perceive as when America was so-called “great” isn’t just a slap in the face of the younger generations fighting for change, but it’s an embrace of stifling that change in the name of fascism.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying every Baby Boomer or Silent Generation American voted for Trump, or became susceptible to the Christian Nationalist Republican brand. I know plenty of people older than me who helped oust Trump, and helped turn the entire Michigan legislature blue for the first time in 40 years. Millions of senior citizen votes were cast in the name to save democracy since some of them are old enough to remember when fascism swept across Europe. And that’s not saying that millions of senior women who remembered life before Roe v. Wade didn’t vote in droves to keep abortion legal in Michigan.

There were millions of voters who used the wisdom they gained through experience to help save this country.

However, I look at the data, and the data says by a plurality, older people the last few years are on the wrong side of history.

And to further this point, podcaster Daily Detroit tweeted the following:


Why do you think all of these Republicans (and, sadly, some corporate Democrats) always demand cuts to Social Security for younger people, but always want to grandfather older people from such drastic cuts? Why do you think Republicans are happily doing whatever they can to prevent the cancellation of student debt? Because they know their older voter base sees those young voters as entitled, even though these older voters benefited from higher government spending on education, and higher education. So, college was cheaper for them!

Baby Boomers were the entitled ones.

But just as Mitch Albom complained how dismissive young people are of older people, he fell into the exact same trap when he complained about young social media influencers, like Charlie D’Amelio:

Today, she has 151.2 million followers on that platform. That’s almost half the population of the United States. Companies would crush one another to get a Charli mention. Charli shapes opinion. Charli moves needles.

Charli is 19.

But amassing followers is one thing. Giving them substance is another. Jesus had many followers, too. He didn’t get them by twerking.

That’s Mitch showing his disdain for a young person being successful for something he doesn’t understand. He’s guilty of the very thing he’s accusing younger generations of doing: Being disrespectful.

And, how do we know Jesus didn’t win some followers because he knew how the bust da’ move?

The youth vote was vital in turning-over Michigan from red, Christian Nationalist fanaticism to common sense progressivism. The young people are the ones who simply want to be given the chance their grandparents had to achieve a comfortable, happy life. They are the ones who refuse to wait until they’re old to amass voting power because the country and the planet could be lost by then.

Rather than complain about how older people are getting disrespected by younger people, perhaps Mitch and his ilk should wonder why younger voters are fighting to help keep the retirement age where it is, to give Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices, to give Medicare-like coverage to all, and to keep the planet safe for their grandchildren.

To me, that’s the kind of respect we all deserve, and the young people are fighting for it.

They aren’t waiting. They want change now!


Photo: “Street Sign: Watch for Senior Citizens” by Ethan Prater is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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