I haven’t been on a rant in a long time. Actually, I’m not given to rants all that often, preferring a more low key approach to expressing my passion for, or against some thing or another. Last night as I listened, with an old reporter’s ear to the SOTU speech, I heard a lot of what I expected to hear. Support for educating our children and young people, which is a good thing, support for sticking it to the rich, which, since I’m not one of them really doesn’t resonate, and support for illegal immigrants, gays, lesbians and the middle class were all included along with their built in applause lines that had people jumping up and down as if on cue.
None of that really bothered me. What bothered me was what was missing, and that was any support for me, or people like me. The President once again failed to address the critical problem of age discrimination in employment that is rampant in this country. There was no mention of programs, or studies, or special commissions to be created to deal with the problems faced by older white guys who have no 401k, retirement plan, government pension, IRA or lottery winnings to help them make it through the September of their years. It was upon reflecting on the content of the speech that I realized while a lot of people got something they could grab onto from his remarks, I, and others like me, had nothing. We are left out in the cold, ever the veterans and victims of age warfare in the job markets of America.
I watched the proceedings last night on C-SPAN, and afterwards they were interviewing various members of Congress about their reactions to the President’s speech. Here again, any mention of age discrimination or age warfare was absent. I was reminded of the line from Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” where Linda, referring to her husband Willie Loman, says, “Attention, attention must be paid to such a person.” But it wasn’t.
Now then, lest you think, after reading this far, that I’m sitting here feeling sorry for myself and others like me, rest assured that is not the case. I’m only pointing out the incredible waste of talent of persons who are still capable of working, want to work, and every time they pursue something meet with the same problem, the person interviewing them for the job is probably 20 t0 30 years younger than them. You can see right away things are not going to go well for the older applicant. I have a couple of examples.
I think it was around early 1987, I was working on a project in Hettinger when I got an excited call from Joanie that I had gotten a call for an interview for a writing position with Great Plains Software in Fargo. This was before they were sold to Microsoft. Well, I drove to Fargo the following Monday morning for the appointment to meet with the person who would be my boss. Turns out she was about 23 years old, and she didn’t think I should be applying for the position. I’m sitting there thinking I had just driven 200 miles for an interview and I wasn’t going to go quickly. I just smiled and told her to not be so quick to judge. I assured her I would have no problem working for a woman, and I was only interested in being able to the job I was being considered for. When I left the office I knew I wasn’t going to get the job. I didn’t.
Another more recent event happened in 2012. I had approached someone to see if there was a position available where my background as a writer and researcher would be of some value. Here again, I met with this person(names are not important) and was told that he would send my resume on to the person I would be working for, (again a younger woman) to see how I might fit in to their operation.
I knew the minute I walked out of his office I wasn’t going to get a job. I didn’t.
Lest you think this is serious, I’m smiling as I write these words. They are but a small part of my life, but they are the part of a lot of other lives as well. I am not the only one who has fallen victim to the silent slings and arrows of age warfare. I’m not even a baby boomer, so I don’t have that group for support. From a statistical point of view, I’m not even a “pre-boomer,” so that gives you an idea of how old I am.
As a teen-ager in Carrington, writing for the high school paper, I knew I was going to be a journalist. Back then, I figured it was a job that didn’t require any heavy lifting, and as long as I kept my wits about me I could work as long as I wanted to, unless personality and character flaws of which I have my fair share, mitigated against it.
So, on behalf of all of the casualties of the war on age, I will leave off with Linda’s words about Willie, “Attention, attention must be paid to such a person.”