First Posted: 7/31/2009
I must admit I am a cynical person. I dont think I was born that way, but gradually became conditioned to be cynical over the years as I witnessed more and more things that promoted disillusionment, skepticism and downright disgust.
When people are starting out in life, the schools teach them about how great our democracy is and that our representative system of government is supposed to work for the betterment of all citizens regardless of economic status, age, race, etc.
When getting out into the real world, a person then sees how things really are the unfairness of the system and how powerless the average citizen without wealth and influence has become in our society. Recent bailouts and other shenanigans in Washington and Raleigh have only reinforced the notion that the plight of regular folks just doesnt seem to matter anymore to either big government or corporate America.
However, I have not become hopelessly cynical to the point that I cant recognize events that happen from time to time which restore ones faith in humanity. (As for restoring faith in our system, thats another story.)
Just such an uplifting occasion occurred Thursday during a roundtable discussion on the Medicare program at Armfield Civic and Recreation Center in Pilot Mountain. The event drew a roomful of people, and given the subject matter, it was no surprise that the attendance was dominated by the elderly.
How exciting or scintillating can a gathering of senior citizens be, you might rightfully ask?
Well, as I quickly learned, when you have a group of people who, based on their years of experience, have earned the right to say what they think and have a subject to be outspoken about, the answer is: extremely exciting!
Although Medicare was the subject of Thursdays meeting, it was apparent early on that the program that generally has been a huge boost to the quality of life of elderly Americans was not the only issue involved. Although seniors complained about the donut hole that causes them to pay high costs for medication in certain circumstances, a general undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the entire federal government was apparent.
Based on comments at the meeting, senior citizens (just like other segments of the populace) feel cut off from their federal and state governments. There were statements suggesting that in dealing with issues such as health care, elected representatives are more concerned with pleasing corporate interests than they are their constituents.
This was certainly evidenced by the fact that while all representatives who serve Surry County in Congress and the N.C. General Assembly were invited to Thursdays forum, none not one saw fit to attend. Nor did they send anyone from their offices on their behalf.
Yet what I found refreshing during the Medicare discussion was a wave of anger evident among the local seniors, which I would hope somehow will spread to other age groups. This feeling was manifested in an attitude that suggested they are tired of the way people in their age group are being treated, and they refuse to accept such mistreatment anymore.
Rather than whining about the government, these folks seemed energized about taking decisive action to fix Medicare and other problems as well.
There was no talk about just rolling over and letting the government do what it wants. Instead, the senior citizens appeared determined to become more involved by making telephone calls to lawmakers, holding one-on-one meetings with them and otherwise taking steps to demand better.
I was also impressed by how knowledgeable they are about the issues, which was apparent from comments being fired from every corner of the room. While many of those in attendance are suffering from medical ailments that are a natural part of aging, what they lacked in physical vitality they more than made up for in the wisdom expressed.
As a result, my usual cynical outlook had been diminished to a degree by the end of Thursdays meeting.
And I wished I could bottle up the energy displayed by those senior citizens and distribute it on the mass market. There is truly no substitute for experience, and the good example that people who have lived for 70, 80 and 90 years can offer.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at [email protected] or 719-1924.