A “Sully” Sullenberger for President? Humm, why not!

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“Some voters are Burned Out on Outrage!”

That’s the recent headline in a national publication. That outrage? The eyebrow raising rancor, silliness and general awfulness surrounding the upcoming presidential election.

And the truth is that if we strike out the first four letters in the word “outrage” what’s left are three letters many voters are particularly burned out on…. age…as in President Joe Biden’s age! Count yours truly among them. Shucks, if I had a dollar for every time Biden’s age is cited in the news, I could purchase a luxurious mansion in Miami, Malibu (or, eh, Mar-a-Lago).

Like those doggone meddlesome dandelions on the front lawn, I just can’t seem to escape the nonsensical obsession with President Joe Biden’s age infiltrating my day. I mean, just the other day as I began unloading my corn beef, Raisin Bran and chicken wings onto the conveyer belt in a grocery store checkout line, the front cover on a magazine staring me in face was one of President Biden entitled, “Joe Biden’s brain, can he really govern?”

The truth is that nary a day goes by without some mention of Biden’s age – to a lesser extent Trump’s – as factor in considering his fitness for the next four years in the White House. But astute observers are smart enough to see through the smoke screen and see how age, Biden’s in particular, rather than experience, level headedness and competence have been highjacked and used as a distraction.

Now let me say this before you take me to task and gun for my rear end. A person’s age is a legitimate concern if a person is in fact unable to do the job. That’s a no brainer.

Oh wait, wait, wait. Remember the now 73-year-old Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the courageous captain who piloted that crippled jet to safe landing on the frigid Hudson River a few years ago? How about a show of hands if you thought he was too old to fly a plane. And consider the age of members of our Supreme Court over the years. How about a show of hands if you feel that they are too old to serve.

Enough said. 

So, like people who quote verses from the Bible, I often draw quotes from Isabel Wilkerson’s best-selling book, “Caste, the Origins of Our Discontents” in narratives I write and do so in this piece which focus on age since age seems to trump (no pun intended) whose best suited for President to be decided by voters in upcoming November election.

Now I first encountered my naivete about the issue of age outside the United States years ago in the lobby of a hotel in Europe while reading a local newspaper waiting for the shuttle to site of a conference. Ads in the paper explicitly mentioned that applicants must be age 35 or younger. And later I was flummoxed by how casually disparaging comments about older people were made during meetings and over dinner.

So what’s driving this national obsession with age? What’s so worrisome about life’s common denominator? What motivates us to cover up the gray, ignore membership requests from the AARP, and look away from the wrinkled body in the mirror? What gives readers?

Well, the opinion here is that the very sight of a frail looking President Biden slowly making his way down the ramp after a flight on Airforce One, pausing between words and thoughts – and even forgetting a fact or two – during live press conferences causes us to confront our own one-way trip to getting old. I mean looking at Biden or aging members of your family – did I mention the 80-year-old Mitch McConell and 90-year-old Chuck Grassley, the latter of whom froze at the podium before being helped off the stage – can be unsettling. The sight of older people can remind us how we’re becoming the “eventual us.”

Writes Isebel Wilkinson in Caste, “The challenge of our era is not only the social construct of black and white but also seeing through the many layers of a caste system that has more power than we as humans in the Western world will join a tragically disfavored caste if they live long enough. They will belong to the last caste of the human cycle, that of old age, people who are among the most demeaned citizens of the Western world, where youth is worshiped to forestall thoughts of death. A caste system spares no one.”

So when you are about to pull the lever and cast your vote eight months from now, conjure up the image of “Sully” Sullenberger, the captain who piloted that jet to a safe landing on the Hudson River. Think “experience.” Think “competence.” Think “temperament.”

So sooner or later your day is coming. You won’t be able to escape hair loss, little white bottles of medication and that monthly Social Security check. Stick around long enough and you’ll fall victim to a caste system that does not discriminate, that takes no prisoners, and you’ll join the ranks of the “eventual you.”

In the end readers, every time Biden’s age comes up in the days, weeks and months ahead as an issue, think “experience” “competence,” “temperament”….. and Mr. Sullenberger. Terry Howard is an award-winning trainer, writer, and storyteller. He is a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Douglas County Sentinel, Blackmarket.com, co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers guild, recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award, and third place winner of the 2022 Georgia Press Award.