Whenever I see an article that pits one generation against another, that categorizes the value and merit of any person in terms of age; that wildly asserts that terming-out is how to handle old folks and only youngsters have the sense and savvy to proceed to the route, I find my teeth grinding.
This is not only because I now happen to be in an age demographic that’s considered “old,” but because being in that age demographic has awakened me to the reality that age is not, and cannot be, the arbiter of who has value, who merits allegiance; who gets to stay and who has to go. Because relevance is not based on how quickly one can text, program a tech device, name the highest rated video game, or garner social media virality. Relevance is based on how well one balances their weight of wisdom, their experience and know-how, with pertinent, evolving, contemporary skills, demands, trends and issues of the day. What young people have on one end of that scale, older people gain on the other. It’s about the right mix; it applies to every increment of the age spectrum, and when you find that mix and act on it, amazing things can happen.
Take Dianne Feinstein. Or, as the bloviator in the White House has deemed her, “Sneaky Dianne.”
Born in San Francisco in 1933, a public servant in one role or another since the 60s, she’s at an age that is inarguably considered “old” by every standard, and yet there she was yesterday, changing the political narrative with nary a twitch of hesitation. With her pale face and smartly brunette coif, matter-of-fact and undeterred, she shoved aside the flummoxed of her own party, as well as the obfuscating Anita-Hill-bashing alumnus, Chuck Grassley, and newly minted Trump fanboy, Lindsey Graham, to step out of the Bable of political confusion to do what needed to be done: release the transcripts of the Fusion GPS testimony:
“The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice,” Feinstein, a San Francisco Democrat, said in a statement. “The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”
Grabbed in a hallway by news reporters after her stunning move, she’s looked at the reporter and flatly declared: “I just decided to do it,” immediately giving women another rallying cry (similar to “But she persisted”) and elevating her status as a very relevant player in the dark drama of the Trump & Russia Show. Perhaps, as history may reveal, one of the most relevant.
Whatever you’ve thought of her over the years, however you’ve agreed or disagreed with her; if you think she’s too hawkish, not progressive enough, behind the times; tired, whatever; you cannot deny the facts of yesterday. Of her bold, shocking, courageous decision to flout political pressure and the Trumpian machinery of threat and blowhardery to do the right thing; to share with the American people what is their right to know; to expose facts that parties on the other side preferred shrouded in lies. No one else did it. No one younger, hipper, more progressive, maler. Dianne Feinstein did it. An eighty-four-year-old grandma who’s been serving the American people longer than some congresspersons have been alive. Just the title of this Los Angeles Times piece says it all: Ignore the critics. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is outperforming many half her age, with old-fashioned civility.
There will be, as there is with anything related to politics these days, particularly Donald Trump, reams written about this event. It will be discussed, debated, denounced, celebrated, parsed, analyzed and argued for weeks, months, potentially centuries to come (will they still be talking about Trump in 3018??), but none of that’s the point of this piece. The point of this piece is simply this:
Age is not the arbiter of relevance. Don’t let anyone tell you it is. Don’t let culture, advertising, Madison Avenue, hipster trendsetters, narcissistic young people, apathetic old people, frothing pundits, clickbait seeking article writers; people so afraid of death they frame anyone past the age of 50 as teeterers at the abyss; any and all of them; don’t let them convince you otherwise. Age is not the arbiter of anything. What is?
Courage, wisdom, experience; a willingness to stay plugged in. A relentless curiosity about evolving life, evolving culture. An interest in every kind of person — young or old. A desire to keep learning, to keep listening; to push against dishonesty and corruption, to remain convinced of and committed to your purpose in life. And then doing it. Doing it all. Whatever that commitment may demand. In Dianne Feinstein’s case, that included releasing the papers because it was the right thing to do.
That is a defining moment. That is relevance.