In the past few months, the voices and even the lives of older people have been marginalized, scapegoated, written off. Most recently, certain politicians have presented a false and horrifying choice — either we protect citizens over 60 or we save the economy. We thought it was time to hear their voices.
Given various categories I am blessed to fall into (white, male, and so on), I have never, since childhood, been in a position where right-minded people are expected to give up anything for my sake. Until now. I am seventy-eight (already!). Therefore I am way, way more than averagely mortal in the face of COVID-19. Everybody, so far, has been sacrificing jobs and sports and proms and fine dining to keep Gramps alive.
I don’t like it. Who with any gumption would? It makes me feel dependent, and highly resentable. Old and in the way.
And don’t tell me, “Oh, don’t feel like that.” Dag nabbit.
Here is how grown-up I am about the whole thing: I am prepared to confront the notion, which various commentators have been floating lately, that I might be “sequestered” — kept apart from younger people so they can get back to mingling. Theoretically, at least, my sequestration will allow the virus to establish “herd immunity” among the rest of you, who can stand to catch it without even getting very sick.
Don’t tell me the point is to protect me from the virus. The point is to protect younger generations, however inferior their music, from a Depression. Fair enough. My parents grew up in the last Depression. I’d like to spare my great-grandchildren-to-come from being reminded constantly, by their parents, of how good they have it.
“Sequester”? Heretofore the government has sequestered funds, not people. “Quarantine” would seem more apt, except that quarantining restricts people suspected of carrying a disease. Sequestration would free all those people by shutting out those of us who are presumably still uninfected. If anybody would be herded under this dispensation, it would be us vulnerables.
Personally, I think I could manage to stay six feet away from younger people on my own recognizance, without even the aid of a good stout walking stick. But never mind that. I enjoy the company of people my age. The ones I know have mingled plenty. And if there is anything we find congenial, it’s complaining. But must every seventy-something be sequestered? Trump, Biden, most of the Senate? Can I be sequestered with anybody but them? If tests establish that I have weathered the virus and developed antibodies, would I be entitled to go free-range wearing the insignia of honorary youth? That, I wouldn’t feel right about. It would be like hanging around high school after your class has graduated.
This just occurred to me: we wouldn’t be getting any fresh infusions of oldsters, right? Whoever makes it to seventy in the future will presumably be immune, but carrying. That’s all right, that’s all right.
But how about my marriage? My wife has a few years to go, before she hits seventy. I’d just as soon die as sequester without her — but if she stays with me, will she have to opt out of the copasetic herd? As we speak, Hollywood must be ginning up neo-Thirties weepies — choices to be made, sacrifices, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck. Not to mention rounding-up-certain-elements movies. Old people aren’t the only category proving especially mortal to the virus. Diabetic people, black people, brown people, poor people, city people…
Sounds like a party.
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