Thursday, February 7, 2008

The image of youth as virtue

A family friend (more family than friend), who moved from India to the United States a year ago, was surprised to hear that I’m a supporter of Hillary Clinton in her bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination. "But why?" was all she could manage for the next two minutes of our telephone conversation, apparently quite stunned by my confession.

I tried to explain my choice, but being an observer of the political scene only from the periphery, I was not as articulate as I would have liked to be. I was not able to rattle off, at a moment's notice, Hillary Clinton's positions on specific issues, as opposed to Barack Obama's. But to articulate my feelings on the generalities surrounding her candidacy was slightly easier.

"She is sharp, to the point, and more experienced than Obama," I said.

"But she voted for the war," countered our family friend who knows me too well.

"True," I conceded. "And it came back to hurt her, didn't it?"

I know that one of my major discomforts with Obama is that he is so young. An acquaintance in her mid-forties, by remarking about Republican candidate John McCain's age (71) and rolling her eyes upward, forced me to admit my bias to myself. "What is wrong with being in your 70s?" I wanted to ask.

And alternatively, is being in the 40s the most important qualification one can bring to the table? If accomplished individuals in their 60s and 70s cannot make a bid for the position of the most powerful leader in the world without provoking derision, what roles can the rest of the gracefully aging members of the world population dare to fulfill in their later years?

In contemporary society, more people are living longer than ever before -- living physically healthier lives. It is believed that with age comes maturity, mellowness, wisdom, and compassion. Having lived (and worked) longer does not always make one boring, uninspiring, alien.

On an everyday basis, we are bombarded with images of youth and stories of young achievers, people who’ve become university graduates at 14, medical doctors at 17, millionaire entrepreneurs at 18, prize-winning authors at 22, and state governors at 36. When we achieve so much so early, what do we do with the rest of our lives? Where do we go from there?

And so to my family friend, I decided to be honest. I said that if most of the world wants to hold Obama up mainly because of his freshness and youth, then I want to hold those same qualities against him. He has time on his hands, he can prove himself, accomplish things and make mistakes in the process. And, if he has any substance, how can his day not come? Clinton (and McCain) have worked hard in their own ways and it would be a shame to toss them aside just because they have worked too long and survived.


Mukund Mohan said...

I believe age is immaterial as is experience. People with experience are mostly set in their ways. The thing that should matter is your ideas, your position on issues and most important your attitude to get things done right?

I like Hilary, but she's too well thought out - she probably knows even what color her drapes need to be in the Washington room of the white house.

I came to this blog BTW from your husbands. He's a very good writer.

Di said...

I very well agree with your stance that there should be a significant achievement in a candidate's quiver before he/ she fires a shot at becoming the next President. But would a very experienced, yet maverick candidate be the best bet for an average Joe, whose age becomes very conspicuous despite not being his USP, is what one needs to decide... Hillary Clinton seems to have somehow achieved this equilibrium of being the experienced Obama (sans the warm smile), with some very solid ideas. Now, if only she could consider an image makeover, all her tuesdays would be Super Cool!