Kudos to Cato the Elder

Kudos To Cato the Elder

Cato, the Elder, Roman statesman and philosopher, started to study Greek at the age of 80. When questioned by a younger friend why he was taking up a brand new language so late in life, Cato was said to reply “Well it’s the only time I have left.”

Cato’s example could be a kick in the pants for all of us old geezers who use our advanced years as a handy excuse to avoid trying new stuff or giving back to society what we have received. Many of us are quite familiar with playing the age card when it suits us.
But, in the long run, we don’t do ourselves any favor by slowing down to a hobble when we are quite capable of walking.

Obviously I am not talking about older people who are severely disabled. Both younger people and healthy old folks owe them our support and assistance.

But if the good Lord gave us a healthy second half to our life as well as a first, He/She must have had a reason for it. We are alive because our lives are still incomplete. We have a job to do, people to forgive, children to encourage, fences to mend, stories to tell and songs to sing.

Remember the poet Browning’s words about the second half of life being “the best is yet to be” ? Our modern world, in its obsession with staying youthful at any cost, has managed to turn Browning’s words around hasn’t it ?“The best is yet to be has become the worst is yet to be.” As a society we are gripped by a fear of aging. We even have a buzz word for it…”Gerontophobia.”

Well, I say handle that gerontophobia BS with a sense of humor. A quirky friend of mine was wont to say, with a twinkle in her 85 year old eyes, “Life is getting awfully scary these days. sometimes I wonder if I’m going to get out of it alive.”

Maybe the greatest gift we elders can pass on to the next generation is to put aside the fear of aging and just keep truckin. We’re old enough to know that we may not change the world, but we can improve ourselves and, by George, we can improve our little corner of the world.

Recalling the immortal words of the great Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” we can finish our life journey with our brains still engaged, our legs still pumping.
That old guy, Cato the Elder, he had the right idea.

Undeclared War on our own Kids

Our Undeclared “War” on Kids

We are a bellicose nation. Even if the cause is just we like to label our initiatives as “wars.” In the Kennedy-Johnson era we launched a war on poverty. For the past number of years we have (mostly misspent) our billions on fighting the war on drugs.

More recently as we allow our governments to spend more money building prisons to incarcerate our kids rather than schools to educate them, I’m beginning to. wonder if we are not in effect, embarked on yet another war, a war on kids.

Look at the facts. When compared to almost any developed nation, our kids score dismally in math and science tests., On the other hand, we lead all nations, first or third world countries, in the number of our youth we throw in prison. We label this battle “a war on crime.” I call it a war on children.

When we have to battle for every budget dollar to pay for daycare for our children or paid pregnancy leave for young mothers or a living wage for the parents of our kids, it’s time to admit it. We are at war with our future generation.

When I read the War Games trilogy, I could not help noticing a resemblance to our own times. Remember, in that book, the government sacrificed the cream of its youth in war games so that those in power could live in comfort. We too, send our young men and women to wage war on shadowy enemies. Then, we begrudge them their veterans benefits when they come back wounded in body and in soul.

We put our future generation in hock with their student loans. We try kids, some as young as 12 or 13, in adult court. Counselors in group homes for youth are paid less than their buddies flipping hamburgers. Pre-school teachers, to whom we entrust our small children, need food stamps to support their own families.

There is a lot of wisdom in the old adage, “In war, there are no winners.” When we cheat kids out of a good education by our failure to support our schools, or by sending them to prison for nonviolent crimes, or short-changing our second rate foster care system, our kids will not emerge winners. Nor will we.

It’s time we called a truce in this war. If a society is judged on how we care for our children, we aren’t doing very well. We can do better. Our kids need us to do better.