Saturday, June 3, 2023

Whatever Happened to Kindly Old Grandma?

Maybe she never existed?

I was reading an article online about an old person scammed into buying "Trump Bucks."  In case you missed the bus, the scam goes like this:  Some guys in Colorado (no doubt, "The Springs") started selling fake money with the likeness of Donald Trump on it.  For $500, you can buy a "$100,000 Bill!" and they claim you can cash it in at any Walmart (natch) or Bank of America.

But of course, you can't.  And you have to be pretty far into dementia to think you can "buy" a hundred grand for five-hundred bucks.  I mean, how would that even work?  If it did, everyone would immediately cash in their dollars for "Trump Bucks" and take them to the nearest Bank of America - and inflation would soar by 20,000%!

Anyway, this 77-year-old lady in Florida "invested" nearly ten grand in this useless paper and is blindsided by the whole thing.  One of her children admits that Mom was "political" which is a neat way of saying, a raging Trump supporter (which is a neat way of saying raging racist, xenophobe, misogynist, homophobe, conspiracy theorist, delusional, whacked-out, insane, mean-spirited, and fascist).

Whatever happened to the kindly old Grandma we were taught about in school?  You know, the one who baked pies and told you stories and was gentle and decent?  Well, according to George Carlin, she's now baking pies in hell, without an oven.  No doubt, Carlin is there with her, asking for another slice.

Has something changed in recent years?  Are old people getting not only more conservative, but outright hostile and mean-spirited?  It is hard to say for sure, but I think maybe our idealized views of the elderly are skewed.

My own Grandparents and Mark's Grandparents are a case in point.  My Grandmother Wiggins was a deep-South racist, and in fact, not more than three generations removed from slave owners.   She was a bitter, angry woman, who treated her own children like shit.  My Mother hated her and everything she stood for.   Grandma Wiggins would come to visit and put on a pair of white gloves and walk around the house, running her fingers over the tops of the door and window trim, looking for dust, and then castigate my mother for being a lousy housewife.  Grandma went to college and majored in Home Economics - she took this shit pretty seriously.  And nothing my Mother could do was good enough for her.

Punchline:  Grandma had a maid, a gardener, and a cook.  Pretty easy to get an "A" in Home Ec when you have your own entourage, eh?

Oddly enough, Grandpa (who was a New Yorker) was a big Democrat - a New Dealer, in fact.  However, bear in mind that back then, Southerners were still pissed at Republicans over the whole Civil War thing - believe it or not, Republicans were against slavery back then.  Today, they support child labor.  Oh, how times have changed!

Mark's Grandmother was a kindly old lady, but tormented her daughter in similar ways as my Grandmother.  She would write her initials and date underneath the "shelf paper" (a sheet of paper placed on shelves back in the day - Google It!) and when she came to visit her daughter, she would check the shelf paper in the kitchen cabinets and then castigate Barbara for not changing it on a monthly basis.  "Really, Barbara," she would say, "your standards are slipping!"

Women can be so cruel to one another.

When Mark turned 18, his Grandma told him how to vote.  "You just look for the (R) next to their name and then vote for that candidate!"    Again, maybe this is a remnant of old politics.  Being from Maine, the tradition was to vote Republican - pro-business, anti-slavery.   But times change and the parties change.   Old people are still conservative.

Why is this?

Well, as I noted before, when you retire, you want the world to stop.  You want Pepsi to stay a nickel and gas 25 cents a gallon.  You don't want things like inflation screwing up your life, or change in how things are done.  It is unsettling and unnerving.   It took you 60 years to figure out how the world worked - and then they go and change it all on you!  As an old person, you turn on the radio or television and you hear this noise they are now calling "music" - performed by people whose names you never heard of.

Back in 1964, I was just a kid when the Beatles came to America and performed on the Ed Sullivan show.  Looking back at those early songs ("She loves you yea, yea, yea") one does cringe and it does sound like so much noise - particularly when the young girls in the audience all SCREAMED at once.  I recall my Dad shaking his head, and my sister saying, "Dad, you just don't get it!"  She was 14 and enthralled - as were all the other girls in Junior High School at the time.

So fast-forward several decades and I turn on the television and see "artists" whose names I never heard of, screaming obscenities into the microphone (not even singing, just talking) and they don't even play instruments!   Just noise, I tell's ya!  What's got into those kids these days!  And of course, the "star" then has an interview where they talk about their drug addiction, legal troubles, rape accusations, and prison time.   We used to be ashamed of such things, today they are lauded - or at least a prerequisite for stardom.

Of course, maybe not much has changed.  The younger generation always has done things to be "different" just like their peers, and often, being "different" means doing edgy things to shock their parents.  And yes, back in the day, celebrities did odious things, but were often not caught, as their misdeeds were swept under the rug.  Elvis dated underage women.  The President slept with Marilyn Monroe.  That sort of thing.

But today, it seems that hate is on the rise - and by design.  Hate is a much stronger emotion than love, and it is far easier to get people riled up with hatred than with love.  Love makes people passive and accepting.  Hate makes people active and violent.  If you want to achieve political power, you are better off tapping into hate than love.

Old people, are, of course, the largest audience for old-school media.   I noted before that newspapers, radio, and television are dead or dying media.  Newspapers, particularly home-town newspapers, are going out of business.  The few left are mostly right-wing nutjobs.  We have a local "paper" that they used to give out for free on the island.  It had ads for local businesses, articles about upcoming events, and not much else.  The publisher filled in the blank spaces with political cartoons - about sports!

Well, he got sick and stopped publishing.  A new publisher took over and now the whole newspaper is "opinion" pieces that are just slightly to the left of Adolf Hitler.  Another old man ranting about how the "younger generation" is going to hell in a handbasket.

What is it about the seething HATE some oldsters have for the younger generation - for their own children, even?  Again, we saw this back in the day.  When my eldest brother went to live on a hippie commune, my parents freaked out.  Kids these days!  I tells ya - just no good!    Today, we see the same thing, first with "Millennials" being rotten no-good sonsofbitches who were ruining everything with their damn avocado toast.  Then, they realized the "Millenials" were all adults now, so "Gen-Z" is tied to the whipping post for a round of derision.  They are all a bunch of namby-pamby transgender freaks!  Every darn one of them - even the ones marching in the Nazi parades!  No damn good!

I've said it before and I'll say it again - it's their world now, so why sweat it?  They have to live in this world another half-century or more, so let them do what they think is right.   Why are old people, who have less than a decade left to live so obsessed with "correcting" the behavior of subsequent generations?  Is it because they have nothing else to do with their time?  Or is it just an urge that occurs when you get older to want to keep things the same?

Granted, not all elderly people are conservative.  But even among "liberal" elderly people, I see a lot of conservative knee-jerk type thinking.  I've seen liberals mock "black" names, once the black people leave the room.  They also tsk-tsk the bizarre behaviors of the next generation, again, once that generation has left the room.  Same shit, different day.   Oh, and they love to run down their own children, too!

Maybe people of all political stripes get more conservative as they get older - and politics are like a fashion statement or habit they cling to.  My racist Southern Grandma was a Democrat, because all her ancestors were Democrats, going back to the Civil War.  Someone changed what a Democrat was, and forgot to tell her.  Mark's Grandma stayed Republican long after abolition ceased to be a plank in their platform.  Both Grandmas became more conservative and reactionary as they aged.

I should say, however, in Grandma Wiggins defense, that toward the end of her life, she admitted that the Black and Hispanics (she used different names, of course) weren't so bad after all.  When she went into assisted living, the people caring for her were largely Black or Hispanic, and they were kind and gentle to her, even if she arguably didn't deserve such treatment.  Jesus washed people's feet.  These folks had to wipe her ass - that's what it took for her to come around, at least somewhat.

But getting back to media, the prime consumers of traditional media are older people - and the primary channels of hate these days is in traditional media - cable television, radio, and newspapers.  On Rich People's Island, the radio blares a series of political ads for the station-owner's wife, who is running for County Counsel.  Her big gripe? Installing roundabouts on the island.  They're round!  Which way do you go?  Bring back the stop sign and stop lights!  Traffic jams are as American as Apple Pie!

She chose a weird hill to die on.

And you know the deal about Cable TV.  It's not just Fox News, but other right-wing outlets as well - often spreading scare stories and fear-mongering.  Your kids are being indoctrinated by books in your local school!  Never mind what they are downloading on their smart phones or streaming on the television.  Those darm librarians are turning 'em all into Commies!   It makes no sense at all.

So maybe that is the reason - a feedback loop.  Old people watch a lot of television, and it isn't hard to understand why they end up spouting all these Fox News Talking Points - they watch hours and hours of it a day.  If there was an ISIS channel they watched for as many hours, they would have turned into Islamic Terrorists by now.

But of course, none of this is by accident.  Someone, somewhere, decided to put this dreck on the air.  And maybe it is just ratings driving the whole thing - hate sells eyeballs, so they program more hate.  On the other hand, many advertisers are realizing that advertising with hate has a negative effect on their bottom line.  Tesla is now the second-least desirable brand in the country, and not because their cars have changed, but because the CEO has decided to go all anti-trans after his wife left him for a transgender person.  Doesn't take break-ups well, I'm afraid.   They call it a "dirty halo" effect, and it does stick to a brand over time.  Both Ford and VW (among others) have had to deal with their Hitler connections - either by sweeping it under the rug, or by making copious apologies.  But it never really goes away.

Compounding this is demographics.  Maybe putting on a news program that caters to people over 80 will generate good ratings - until that demographic up and dies on you.  How do you attract the next generation, who reviles your brand?  Moreover, the over-80 crowd isn't spending much on anything other than Insure and Depends.  Hard to sell a monster truck to the lost-my-license crowd.

Even the younger viewers among the hard-right are a hard sell.  Sure, you can sell them pallets of "survival food" and guns and ammo.  But they aren't about to buy a giant SUV - not when their 1993 Tahoe is still running good, with its "Sovereign Citizen" license plate.

Of course, the real danger to our society isn't angry Grandma - she's shuffling off the mortal coil as we speak.  What is scarier are the younger people - some in their teens - who think Nazism is "cool" and "edgy" and won't figure out otherwise until it is too late.

Odd thing, those kids don't seem to be programmed by those nasty books in the school library!  I wonder where they get these ideas from?  (Hint: You're staring at it right now).