New Orleans Ok, it’s on now! I should have known it was coming. Without a word, my companera has been asking Alexa to play Neil Young. She didn’t need to tell me that she’s doing it as part of her solidarity protest with Young’s action in taking his music off Spotify because of Covid-19 misinformation spewing from that platform’s contracted podcasters. Joni Mitchell is part of the cohort that she refers to as the “whiny women” that I like to listen to, so I’ll know it’s really getting serious when she demands that Alexa give Joni some time. Now, environmentalist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben and Akaya Windwood have written an op-ed in the Times about “codger power” so I’m preparing for the sharing, as the emails with links to that story start piling up in my in-box, since I’m solidly in that demographic, as I often forget, but am frequently reminded.
Their basic aspirational premise is that people over 60, infected by the spirt of the social changes of the 60’s, will not settle with their age into atavistic political positions, but will continue to come out swinging as some of them did “back in the day.” Maybe, but they also note that “Older Americans vote in huge numbers; they represented 44 percent of the electorate in 2020, with boomers closely divided on their presidential choice and those over 75 clearly favoring Donald Trump.” That’s not encouraging, although I’ll give them credit for stirring the pot. They’ve done so by starting some kind of organization called Third Act to try to invigorate and inspire seniors into action. Good for them!
Are they onto something? Neil Young and Joni Mitchell aren’t exactly the harbingers of these times, despite being right on. Worse, they seem to be leading without a lot of followers. Codger power might be an interesting t-shirt, but it’s hard not to realize that it’s sailing against pretty stiff wind, especially because the sailors are not exactly jumping into the boat to help paddle. In the last week alone, I got a couple of messages from dear friends and comrades citing how tired and creaky they were. Aren’t we all, I might have said? Or to be more contemporary and honest, I could have said, “Yeah, I feel ya!”
Where McKibben and Windwood or spot on is in trying to not lose their voices and participation in the struggles of these times, regardless of where they have been in the past. The fact that they’ve sought to build a platform to have that voice – or were forced to do so because of their ages — says quite a lot as well. Many “age out” of the work or are taken out of the work as they age or by their own action or that of others, sometimes willingly, and sometimes kicking and screaming, and wondering why age discrimination isn’t a bigger weapon for justice.
Regardless, to make change we need everyone in motion, young, old, and in-between. We all need to fight to keep our voices strong in the process, because these are trying times that demand a shout from all of us.