Written October 8, 2012     

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© 2016 Bob Lonsberry


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We all love Grama.

But it’s time to take away the keys.

It’s not about how many years she’s been driving. It’s not about all the great things she’s done. It’s not about how much you appreciate and respect her.

It’s not about yesterday, it’s about today.

It’s about common sense and realizing that this can’t go on. She can’t do today what she did yesterday, and the passage of time has done what the passage of time does.

She won’t want to give them up. She will be certain that she’s still capable. She might even fight you over it. And it might lead to some temporary hard feelings.

But it’s the right thing to do.

It’s time to take away Grama’s keys.

For most middle-aged people across Monroe County, Louise Slaughter has been in Congress all of their adult lives. There are grandparents today who were newlyweds when she was first elected. There are local men who have been born, grown, fought in war and died, all since Louise Slaughter went to Washington. For a generation, this region’s voice and face in Washington have been Louise Slaughter.

Different people will see the effectiveness of those years differently. Those who view insider status and being a spokesperson for partisan cause as important will note success. Those who think legislative accomplishment and local benefit are important will find less success.

She has been a champion of America’s liberal and feminist causes, and earned praise or criticism as a result.

She has had a long and interesting career.

But she’s not running for yesterday, she’s running for tomorrow, and Louise Slaughter is not the candidate of tomorrow. The passage of time unavoidably makes her a representative of the past.

She was born six months into the administration of Herbert Hoover, the year the stock market crash sparked the Great Depression. When Louise Slaughter was a little girl, Lou Gehrig was still playing baseball.

Not only wasn’t there color television, there wasn’t television.

In Louise Slaughter’s childhood, shortly after the Lindbergh flight, there was no commercial air travel, most locomotives were steam, and a significant percentage of Americans still kept horses for transportation and farm work. She was a school girl when Amelia Earhart disappeared and the Hindenburg burned.

She grew up in Kentucky in an era when whites and blacks were required by law to drink from different fountains and be taught in different schools from different books. Interracial adoption was outlawed the year she turned 21. She was 25 the year Emmitt Till was killed and Rosa Parks kept her seat.

Her peers were the parents rebelled against by the 60s generation, and she was in middle age when the Beatles broke up. Louise Slaughter was old enough to collect Social Security when Billy Ray Cyrus released “Achy Breaky Heart” and Eric Clapton recorded “Tears in Heaven.”

She was 13 years old when Barack Obama’s mother was born.

All of these things speak of a wonderful, rich life that should be respected by all. Louise Slaughter lived through the Depression, the Second World War, the Cold War, and the life and death of the American manned space program. She has seen the New Deal and the Great Society and the transistor and the computer. She predates “The Wizard of Oz,” stereophonic recording and FM radio. The Oscars began the year she was born and she was in grade school before Elvis was born.

She was 40 the year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

She should write a book, and we would all do well to learn what she has seen.

But what she has seen is not of this day. This is two generations past hers, and the issues, priorities and values of today are not the ones with which she was raised or around which her life grew.

She is older than 98 percent of the people on earth. She is older than 95 percent of the people in America. The median age in her district is 36, and she is twice that plus almost a dozen years.

She cannot truly represent this district because her life and life experiences, by virtue of her great age, are not like those of the people in her district. It is not logical to presume that a person who grew to adulthood in the segregated South, and who was 35 before the Civil Rights Act was passed, can begin to understand, much less represent, a city with a sizable and impoverished black population.

Likewise, the children of the Baby Boom cannot truly be represented by a woman from the generation of the parents of the Baby Boom.

How can anyone represent a life they have not lived?

The issue is not legacy. The issue is not love. The issue is not gratitude or respect.

The issue is age.

Louise Slaughter has served in a government that imposes mandatory retirement on pilots at 65, soldiers at 62 and police officers at 57. Federal judges go “senior” when a decade younger than Louise Slaughter, and New York state judges have to head toward the door at 70.

There is a reason for that.

We honor and respect Louise Slaughter. We note and remember her quarter century of service.

But that was then and this is now.

We all love Grama.

But it’s time to take away the keys.

- by Bob Lonsberry © 2012

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