Trump’s ageism: not an aberration


OK, so President D.T. was called an old lunatic by Kim Jong-un. He was deeply hurt, and who can blame him? Not by the label of lunatic: that’s not a new accusation, so it is easily overlooked. But by the awful implication that at 71 he falls into that untouchable class of—oh no! heaven forbid!—the old.

His response: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?”

Now don’t imagine this is a Trumpism. It’s not a sign of lunacy, either, whatever that may mean. This attitude is ageism pure and simple, and it’s the norm.

Old as applied to human beings no longer means having lived a certain number of years. In our English-speaking western world, it now means repulsivefeeble, pitiable, ludicroususeless, a condition to be dreaded above all others.

Ageism trumps even racism as a widespread prejudice. Here’s one teensy bit of research to support this statement:

In 2008, an ongoing study by UCLA and Stanford University researchers of 20,000 registered voters has found that far more of them would vote against Sen. John McCain because of his age than would vote against Sen. Barack Obama because of his race.

Why is the dread of old age so powerful?

Why do we dread and fear the old so deeply, despite the fact that we will all grow old—that’s if we’re lucky?

Ageism is hatred of the self that we will become.

But perhaps that’s not a paradox. Perhaps this is the very reason for our hatred and contempt: deep down, we know we too are ageing, and ageing implies that one day we will die, and we cannot bear to face this. Perhaps the human condition offends us particularly in today’s market-driven era of competitive self-improvement.

Understanding is just a start. Let us forgive our bodies for their inevitable decline, admit that we too will be old one day, and regard old age as an achievement, not a failure.

(And by the way, mental illness is an illness, not a failure.)

31 thoughts on “Trump’s ageism: not an aberration

  1. Rainee says:

    Interesting post! You may find this website of interest –
    A small group of women have banded together to look all the issues that impact us as we age.

    1. No luck with that link or googling.

    1. No go. So tell me what you are finding?

    2. Now I’ve found it! Oddly, the link wouldn’t work on my phone but does on my laptop. Thank you Rainee: this is a useful resource.

      1. Rainee says:

        Glad you found it Rachel. It was a bit hard to explain what it is.

  2. So true ! I see this everyday. In addition to the social stigma – with this current attitude we miss / lose the wisdom that age has to offer.

  3. This feeds into why people try to look young (among other factors). I remember going for a job interview when I was in my early 50s (young by my current standards!). I was painstaking with my makeup and dress. I wanted them to think I was younger (they can’t ask your age at an interview), full of energy and not an old fuddy-duddy. I got the job. I often wondered if I would have been as successful if I had looked older. My personal fear of aging is more associated with health, mobility and independence.

    1. It certainly does! Your story is a good example of how our priorities change as we mature. IF we mature. Yesterday my 21 year old granddaughter asked me if she looked “all right” for a job interview in the afternoon; that’s a reasonable goal, and hard for other reasons when you’re young.

      1. Yes! When I was young I didn’t want to look “inexperienced!” Hard to win, isn’t it?

  4. Chris White says:

    What a good post. Our planet is billions of years old but its beauty is everywhere. I’m 66 on Monday. I’ve been everywhere from 0-66. Still learning, still a child.

    1. That’s a good comparison, and a healthy way to be.

  5. BillGFL says:

    We live in a disposable society. If something isn’t “just out of the box” it’s old and passe.

    Do we who are 50+ feed into it” Maybe.

    Just a few years ago I owned a shop in CT where I restored and preserved antique furniture. I didn’t try to make the pieces look new with sanding, stripping , etc. No, I preserved the character brought only by age. Sure, re-glue a loose joint, remove a bit of grim (but not patina!), put on a touch of wax when needed. But, respect for age and character was essential.

    At first I would get a bit annoyed when someone, often wearing yoga pants, would come into the shop, snapping their chewing gum or tightly clutching a water bottle and say, ” Oh, what do you do, sell old furniture”?

    After a while I came up with a way to solve the problem of folks unsure of what they were looking at. Aprons were made (for sale and for staff) that were imprinted with: “Not old…Vintage”. It was a great way to start the conversation as to why antique and vintage was often more valuable than new.

    Don’t despair. Take care of those creaky joints, clean up and know your value!


    1. I like the aprons. I’m thinking of a t-shirt saying: “Thanks, you look good for your age too.”

  6. Glynis Jolly says:

    I have never thought of being old as a bad thing. Even when I was a child, I would think about what it would be like to be my grandparents’ age. They were always so cheerful and wise, helping me see the larger picture of the world. I wanted to be like them. Sure, I’ve heard the jokes about growing old but I have never found them humorous.

    I am not a fan of Trump. I wish he wasn’t in the White House. It has nothing to do with his age though. In fact, I’m appalled by how deficient he is despite his 71 years of life experiences.

    1. That is extraordinary! I am glad to encounter anyone who is free of anti-age feelings in the most natural way possible. You have had your role models firmly in mind from the start.

  7. cedar51 says:

    Well I have a slightly different problem – when I was younger, I looked just like everyone else in my age group but when I reached my mid 50s things started to happen. I wasn’t really aware of them, until I would be having a ordinary conversation with someone (both genders) and they would say “when you are my age you will understand…” most times I had no idea what age they were, so I would gently inquire and I would find they were in there 40s!

    When I got to my 60s nothing changed, I was still apparently too young to even be thinking I might have the old-age pension in a few years time…I had some classic chats with university professors that still make me laugh today. I told one HOD who was my age that a certain other professor should hang up his slate and he was well past the gold-card timeframe – to discover he was only 56 (4 years younger than me…) Another one, who said “…in the 1960s before you were born, they did…” err…mate I was born in the 1950s! The poor guy nearly fell of his chair!

    Then I got the magic gold card…yep, I’ve had it 18mths. I’ve had some amazing chats on p/transport about “how have you got one of those?” – never had any driver/conductor suggest they check it (probably just feel sorry if I shouldn’t have it…) But one of my better friends, recently watched me tag on and then said “you better top-up you’ve only got $4.98 left” – I gently reminded him, I travelled free now after a certain time period…

    Now when I look in my mirror, I don’t see someone very young, I see my smile lines and my silver grey with speckles of brown (I think the call that salt & pepper) and I see getting older…(btw the hair dresser said it was unusual to dye your hair that type grey…)

    1. What a marvellous story. I predict that you will live in good health to a very advanced age. (I have been reading Spring Chicken.) My second husband used to play the old card on me, and he was only four months older!

      1. cedar51 says:

        that’s a possibility my only other living sibling who was the eldest anyway turned 91 in August…she is pretty decrepit due to having polio in her 20s (before I was even thought of )- although she really had very little lasting effects other than problems with her legs.

        she said last week when health assessors did one of their visits – a new person felt she wasn’t anywhere near 91 – so it must be in our genetic makeup somewhere that we “don’t look our age” – at least the women in our family.

      2. That’s a very fine thing. I understand that if you have the genes for longevity you can safely live recklessly, binge on sugar nicotine alcohol without ill effects. But I’m not gambling on that!

  8. cedar51 says:

    I try not to do “reckless” – I may not look old but I’ve some mainly invisible disabilities that rear up regularly and throw people a curly for sure. It took many decades after I left the clutches of Mother, to realise that sensible shoes were the way forward – I wear a kind of running shoe that is black all over, the brand logo is raised as in black as well.
    My hands can’t be disguised, – fine motor skills can be a problem (The keyboard is behaving this morning…) I learnt to touch type in the 1960s on manual of course, but it has stood me in good stead, my right hand automatically knows where the back space key is (oops, we have just used that for nearly every word] in this last sentence!

    1. We live in good times for sensible shoes — maybe I’ll blog about that! And you have given me one more reason to gloat over my ow touch typing skills. What a blessing, are they not? mismatch between

  9. LooneyB says:

    yes I very much agree that probably the reason we fear getting old is that its one stop before we die. I hate the thought of getting ” older” AND noticed last night that there are lots of people younger than me, now. We can all be romantic about being older but its no fun. If we are lucky, yes, we will get to a ripe old age but the trick is not getting older, but staying ” fit”. What is the point if being 95 and being bed bound. I applaud people who embrace getting older but even those bright souls must, in their quiet moments dread the clock ticking as it surely does
    My life has sped too quickly ……. I wont waste it next time

    1. Sounds like you are all psyched up to make the most of the rest of your life. And that’s gotta be good!

  10. BillGFL says:

    For many of us that lost friends and family in Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan or in law enforcement, death was always around the corner – a silent, constant presence. As the Bible says, … ” you will know neither the day nor the hour”.
    Enjoy and do something good with each and every moment.

    1. Personal experience of tragedy certainly helps us to see the value of old age. Thank you for sharing this.

  11. Great to read your post and all the comments, Rachel. Thinking about ageing (I much prefer it with an e, otherwise it looks too much like nagging) permeates both my personal and professional life. There are many advantages to being older – you have so much to look back on; experience to apply in everyday life; you can open conversations more easily with strangers and admire their babies and children; you can reward yourself with a good sit-down after exercising. I could go on.

    1. This is very true: ageing can be in a way a comforting, cosy process. How strange that so few people can see that in advance? I think there must be some evolutionary advantage, though I dread to think what that might be.

    2. And btw I like your avatar!

  12. Oops, just lost my reply—touch typing skills are gloatworthy, aren’t they—but fat fingers on a phone screen are a disability. We live in good times for sensible shoes!

  13. Agreed! People do use age as a factor at the voting booth, especially if someone is older. One of late New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg’s opponents used the age argument against the Senator (he was 84 at the time).

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