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Jenifer’s Journal: Everything old …

Don’t throw the past away/ You might need it some rainy day/ Dreams can come true again/ When everything old is new again

—  Peter Allen

Well, if these last two … four…O.K., six years don’t qualify as one long, interminable “rainy day” in America, I shudder to think what would.

Election interference, impeachments, pandemics, insurrections, disinformation, invasion, incalculable losses at every turn. No one dares ask anymore “What next?” 

But the thing is, barring a direct hit by a mega-meteor, or an untoward juxtaposition of Putin’s pointer finger to a certain red button, there will probably be many “nexts.”

While some of us over 60 may be contemplating occasionally the ol’ “mortal coil shuffle” and wondering whether we’ll make it out of “here” alive, the fact is many seniors could be looking at 20 to 30 more years of “nexts.”

And if the 20 years to come are going to be anything like the first two decades of this already-fraying new millennium, it’s going to be a bumpy, midnight-in-America kind of ride.  

Back at the turn of this century, when everyone was freaking out about Y2K, we should’ve been scared, but not because of a threat of catastrophic computer glitches (seems so quaint now, doesn’t it?), but because there we were, a species of questionable intelligence and foresight, hurtling unprepared into an uncertain future, having forgotten to pack the necessities we would need for the journey.

You all know who “Dr. Rick” is, right? I think I’ve mentioned him here before, the character that actor Bill Glass plays to perfection in those nearly-iconic Progressive Insurance commercials that have appeared on the tube in recent years? Those commercials are funny and fond.

Everybody recognizes in them either their parents or themselves as the (almost) infinitely patient Dr. Rick counsels clueless middle-aged children who are becoming their parents. Like their parents, these “clients” are befuddled not only by the new technology, but also the new social protocols that tacitly seem to disparage the kindness, courtesy, respect and generosity toward fellow humans that their parents had taught them to practice. 

Admittedly, those commercials are funny, and I laugh, too, but with a catch in my throat because what those hapless “students,” and by extension, all of us are being instructed to do is to say good-bye to pieces of our humanity. You know, those necessities I mentioned? Hold that thought.

Time out from this screed for a few PSAs: If you haven’t checked out shelterislandpubliclibrary.org website you should. The library offers a wide variety of programs for residents of all ages and the upcoming Friday Night Dialogues sound terrific, e.g.:  May 13, Town Supervisor Gerry Siller with the annual State of the Town presentation; and May 20, “Everyday Pilgrimage” with the Reverend Dr. Stephen Adkison.

Re: “Booster news,” as of this writing, the second ‘wave’ of Booster #2 has not yet been rescheduled.  Contact the Senior Center for updates at [email protected]

Necessities. Right. It’s perhaps a supreme irony that we Boomers, having been agitating, pot-smoking, free-loving wild children back in the day, should find ourselves as the custodians of the values that have held our democracy together for the past couple of centuries.

Like it or not, by accident of birth, a whole bunch of us children of the “Greatest Generation” straddle that border between the post-WWII, Technicolor American Dream world of the 20th century and the technocentric, antiseptic A.I. world of the 21st. 

It’s not that the 20th century was a rose garden. It was the backdrop in many ways for a terrifying blood bath of human depravity. But as much as we were disillusioned by America’s failures, I don’t think we ever really lost our belief in the goodness, the rightness of the idea that spawned it. 

We Boomers have seen this American democracy from both sides now, as a beacon of hope to the world, as a fierce defender of democratic ideals, yes, but now as a deeply divided, hate-filled nation of strangers.

In the worst sense, everything old is becoming new again — the right to vote, the freedom of speech, women’s and minority rights are all being threatened, and the values necessary to the health of a democratic nation: truth, honesty, integrity, compassion, freedom, tolerance, inclusion and justice, are being ground into near-extinction under the jack boot of neo-totalitarianism, both here and abroad.

OK, a little much. But it’s not a right or a left thing, it’s a democracy thing, an American thing.  Dr. Rick notwithstanding, fellow Boomers, “don’t throw the past away.”

That idealism, tempered by reality, is what helps us know better and, if we let it, could help make us useful in this perilous moment.