Torch Article: Reverendly Yours - Rev. Tom Goldsmith

26 March 2018

Do you ever get the feeling that narcissists are clueless about aging? Self-awareness has never been a strength among the egotistical; so their constant clamor for attention continues endlessly, long past when they should pack their bags and bid adieu to the limelight. If only they knew how silly they look and act when they pretend they are ageless. They would never think of moving on or stepping aside in the twilight of their years when most people wish they would surrender to the truth about themselves. It’s a psychological disorder when the need for admiration exceeds a more circumspect view that their talents are tarnished like an old piece of silver. And frankly, nobody wants to get out the polish.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden, ages 72 and 74 respectively, decided to rumble last week as though they were teenagers. Rather than bask in the glow as elderly statesmen, they entered virtual reality as teenagers, threatening to beat the crap out of each other. Vanity can get the best of people when they think they’re some sort of Peter Pan who doesn’t get older. But into one’s seventies and still insisting that you’re a bad ass epitomizes Fake News. Bulletin Bulletin Bulletin: You’re a fool and we’re laughing at you.

One of my colleagues, who retired a few years back due to failing health, said it was difficult to acknowledge professionally, “It’s not your turn anymore.” There’s a natural rhythm in life when the old gives way to the young. You may not plan for it and it might even surprise you. But at some point even the longest running show on Broadway closes. Time to use the stage for new theater productions. Helps keep society’s blood flowing. There are still options when surrendering a career like mentoring, serving as an elder, taking a bow, offering support. But try telling any self-absorbed nitwit that it’s not his or her turn anymore.

As much as I love Bernie Sanders, he would be 79 years old if he made another presidential run. I don’t dislike Nancy Pelosi as so many do, but she turned 78 last Monday. Doesn’t mean she needs to retire from life, but her unyielding power has made it difficult for any promising new leadership to emerge. We need new voices in government. The baby in the next presidential race is Elizabeth Warren who will be a spry 73.

Don’t think I’m dismissive of the old or worship the cult of youth. It’s a matter of seeing life clearly, especially oneself. Young voters need new narratives and symbols and fresh beginnings in order to get excited enough to cast a ballot. If the elderly have accumulated any wisdom in life, they will have learned selflessness and the need for new ideas and perspectives to emerge. And they will understand that as well intentioned as they are, they can also inhibit progress…the kind of crisp approach to issues for which most of us crave.

Last Saturday at the March For Our Lives, organized by high school students protesting the political lack of nerve to impose sane gun laws, the kids spoke out.

They invited a band of interfaith clergy to join them in leading the march, but made it clear that the clergy were merely ornamental. The students would take the mic. As a result, I and thousands of protesters were treated to a series of thunderous speeches, better than I had ever heard before. They were short and savvy, and one speech flowed into the next seamlessly, organized by themes relevant to the cause: guns preferred over children, white children slain as a different media experience from black children gunned down, fear among students, and a plea that they have had enough.

The voices of those too young to vote today, will be voting in 2020. Will they be able to get excited about the near octogenarians running for president? That’s the chance that Biden, Bernie, and others will take. Let’s hope that they are not as blinded by their narcissism as Trump. It’s not their turn anymore. TRG