I’m only ten years old in dog years. I’ve been accused, rightly so, of having a bit of terrier in me. If I can hang in there as long as my two previous terriers, who died at fifteen and a half and fourteen and a half respectively, I can outlive Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician immortalized in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures” who died at 101 today. Just like Ms. Johnson, when confronted with a problem to solve, particularly of the tech variety, I am dogged.
Not one to bow easily to mansplaining by alpha males (or femalesplaining by alpha females, for that matter) I have a reputation for tenacity. I’m not a barker, I just quietly but firmly stand my ground, and I pretty much get along with everybody through the force of my ability to focus on which fights to pick and which to let go of. You wouldn’t be wrong to think me, like my current terrier Dev, a big dog in a little body, not a galumpher or a lap dog.
I’m really spry, just like my terriers were at my age. Aside from the inevitable senior moment when I can’t remember the name of a movie I saw last year or where I left my glasses, I think my mental faculties are pretty sound, too, something I can’t say for our current President, whatever else you might think about him. But like all of my terriers, I also know when it’s time to just curl up on the couch. I wish some of our politicians would do the same.
In the 2020 election, 21 of 33 senators up for reelection will be 65 years old or older in November. The average age of congress people has risen steadily since World War II, in part because of medical advances that have increased our lifespans. But c’mon people, isn’t it a bit of problem that of the nine remaining Democratic presidential contenders five are in their seventies? Only those with no path to the nomination – Steyer (62), Klobuchar (59), Mayor Pete and Tulsi Gabbard (both 38) are below Medicare age. And let’s not forget that Nancy Pelosi is 79, Mitch McConnell is 78, Chuck Schumer will be 70 in November, not to mention Trump at 73. With all of the talk about looming autocracy, we seem to be missing the point that we are already living in a gerontocracy.
I’ll grant you that Elizabeth Warren could run circles around most GenXers, maybe even most Millenials. She’ll probably be just as sharp at 101 as Katherine Johnson was in the interview I saw of her recently. Warren just picked up Michael Bloomberg by the scruff of the neck at the last debate, shook him and hurled him to the floor like a WWE star. She’s a terrier, just like me, or maybe a bulldog.
But the rest of the 70-somethings are more like dogs who couldn’t or wouldn’t fetch a tennis ball. Bernie would expect his owner to dole out free treats to everyone in the dog park while he barked loudly in the corner. Biden would be waiting for Barack to help him find the ball. Bloomberg would be that Labrador with six balls in his mouth, refusing to share them with anyone else.
Meanwhile, Pete and Amy would be snarling at each other, he a Norwegian elkhound and she an indeterminate midwestern mutt, their owners shouting at them to “cut it out,” ultimately separating them and yanking them from the dog park entirely. Tulsi would be wearing a floral bandana and a camo collar, sniffing Bernie’s butt, and offering hers to him, hoping for a VP nod. This younger pack does nothing for me.
Sometimes I just want to turn into one of my cats, disdainful of everyone, ready to sleep on the heat register until it’s time for my next meal, oblivious to the fact that our republic is in mortal danger. But then the news cycle gets my dander up and I just wish that all of these old white men and a few old white women would just give it up and we could have a whole new crop of well trained, mid-career guide dogs to pick from instead of this mangy lot. Ok, I make an exception for Warren. So far, she’s best in show.