When age brings maturity, like a fine wine, and wisdom born of understanding the mistakes of the past along with the ability to incorporate that knowledge into the affairs of the present; when it carries with it compassion born of an awareness of the universality of human suffering and a desire to ameliorate it, then it belongs in public service. Wisdom understands the past, accepts the realities of the present, but still has the ability to think outside of tired old paradigms.
Unfortunately, this is a rare phenomenon in public life, as aging politicians seem to be driven more by an egotistic lust for power and a grander place in history than a desire for service. People who need to leave their mark on the world in the same way an animal pisses on a new rug or, in the case of the current president, fills a bag with dogshit, puts it on the world’s porch, lights it on fire, rings the bell, then scurries off into the shrubs to chortle as the hapless owner tries to stomp it out. Age is not always about advancing years. It’s about having a dead mind. And a dead soul.
Elephants have the wisdom to know when it’s their time to die. They just wander away from the herd and have a lie down. If only certain politicians had the same instincts regarding their careers. Go off into seclusion. Grow that vacation beard. Write a memoir. Build a house for a poor person. Stump for your favorite disease, even name a foundation and gala fundraiser after your close relative who died of the disease, which is usually the only event that can shake the shit out of a politico and force feed to them the fact that they are mortal like the rest of us.
Maybe what’s needed is some sort of test before someone can run for high office. Especially someone of advancing years. A way of measuring a candidate’s intelligence, openness, and awareness, not just of his or her own world, but of people, cultures and worlds outside their own. In short, a way of gauging whether that person is still alive, or whether they’re just too old, mean, stubborn, selfish, or even borderline senile for public office. Sort of a cranky old fart quiz.
1) U2 is:
a) A spy plane that got shot down over the Soviet Union.
b) A band.
c) Text message shorthand.
d) There’s a mess in my diaper.
2) Nirvana is:
a) Blasphemy to a god-fearing Christian.
b) A band.
c) Buddhist enlightenment.
d) I can’t find my pants.
3) Zeppelin is:
a) That German blimp that crashed. “Oh the humanity.”
b) A legendary band.
c) A legendary band that trashed hotel rooms and nailed groupies on tour.
d) Where’s my house?
4) Rush is:
a) A conservative radio talk show host.
b) A band.
c) What a bong hit gives you.
d) I wanted green jello, not red!!
5) The Stones are:
a) What the Bible says people in glass houses shouldn’t throw.
b) A great Rock ‘n’ Roll band.
c) A great Rock ‘n’ Roll band that is one broken hip away from not touring.
d) Causing excruciating pain in my kidneys.
6) Dylan is:
a) The first name of a poet.
b) A famous singer.
c) A famous singer who’s starting to look like a raisin wedged between two cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.
d) My great grandchild.
7) War is:
a) A human inevitability.
b) A band.
c) Avoidable if great minds pursue peace.
d) What makes blood rush to my penis.
8) Madonna is:
a) The Virgin mother of our lord, Jesus Christ.
b) A singer.
c) A pretentious, gap-toothed Anglophile and silly born-again Kabbalist.
d) I want my driver’s license back!!
9) Complete the phrase: Hip…
10) Complete the phrase: Punk…
a) …is slang for a cigarette.
b) …ass bitch.
c) …began and ended with the Sex Pistols.
d) O seventy-one? … BINGO !! Uh oh, there’s more doody in my diaper.