As voters, should we care whether people on the ballot are mentally capable of holding the job?
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It's probably safe to say that most of us, including Red, think of old age and its implications in a very personal way, either in terms of ourselves or loved ones. But not Black, who often says, "Aging beats the alternative," and looked at retirement from a business perspective, but now sees how it impacts all of us in terms of elected officials.
Recently, Bill Cassidy, a physician and senator (Republican from Louisiana), stated how he "favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government," explaining that it has nothing to do with politics or partisanship, or even any specific individuals. It's simply because once you reach your 80s, there can be rapid decline in your cognitive abilities. It's just a fact of life.
Red, the lover of history, understood the point, especially as it seems that many elections, and certainly presidential ones, have tried to make age an issue. Of course, the stated arguments are a function of whether you're the older candidate or the younger one. And although she's always thought it was a question of the specific person, not the date on their birth certificate, Red felt no one summed it up better than Ronald Reagan (73) when running against Walter Mondale (56),
I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.
In all seriousness, although we have very different perspectives (especially as Red's the one dealing with our 93-year-old mom), it does come down to the individual. There's no "right" or "wrong" age for retirement, and many of us know "older" people who can run, sometimes quite literally, circles around "younger" people. Age is a mindset as much as it's a number.
But when it comes to government leaders, shouldn't we be confident they're physically and mentally capable of the job? Mandatory cognitive tests for aging leaders make perfect sense. They're clinical and non-emotional gauges and are no different from medical tests recommended for people as they age. Except these leaders are making decisions that impact us all, and as Black sees it,
In Washington D.C., the Department of Motor Vehicle's drivers' license renewal process requires drivers over 70 to have their physician certify their physical and mental competence. So, it would seem that would be a reasonable requirement for leaders who decide the direction of our country.
Black can’t help but think backward (more on that below), but Red always thought being told that you do things backward was an insult, not a compliment. Except, maybe, on National Backward Day, when everyone is encouraged to have a bit of fun, shake up the “normal” way of doing things, and maybe even find a better way of doing some things. Or at least to try a different perspective. And if nothing works, you can follow Black’s advice to Red and say, “Dammit, I’m mad”! Which she quickly pointed out is a palindrome – a word, sentence, verse, or number that reads the same backward or forward.
Since when does doing something backward mean you're doing it wrong?
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Red, still that straight-A student, has always tried to do things the “right” way, which has meant looking at things in a very traditional way; while Black, who doesn’t think like most “mere mortals” (as Red's fond of telling her) looks at things in a very different, or perhaps even “backward”, way.
For Red, that has always meant looking at where things are today and moving forward in an orderly and logical, at least to her, way. Doing things “out of order” isn’t Red’s style. So, National Backward Day, where you not only celebrate but embrace doing things backward, or simply contrary to how they’re usually done, seemed crazy and even difficult to do. Until it prompted a long-forgotten memory,
My mom used to tell me that one of her and my dad’s favorite meals was going to a restaurant called Lundy’s on Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn (where they grew up and lived when they first were married). But one night, after getting tired of never having room for dessert, they decided to eat their meal backward – so a large heaping slice of blueberry pie topped with chocolate ice-cream was followed by an enormous portion of fried shrimp followed by soup and salad, which they ended up taking home. And they deemed it … a perfect meal.
Of course, for Black, the idea of doing things backward comes second nature and is how she has approached life. She looks at the end goal and then thinks about how to get there, hence to her, it’s always about working backward (even New Year’s resolutions, if she made them) because,
If you do not know where you want to go, how can you determine the best way to get there? It is like getting in a car and driving without a destination in mind – it will get you somewhere, but not necessarily where you want to be.
Looking for a simpler way to celebrate the day? Maybe eat breakfast for dinner (we often do that anyway) or turn your shirt around. Maybe we should celebrate by Red being pragmatic and Black warm and fuzzy. Now that would be backward!
Empowering girls – one cookie at a time. Ok, maybe one box of cookies at a time.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It’s that time of year when many people’s New Year’s resolution of eating better is challenged by the arrival of Girl Scout cookies; something that poses a problem for Red, while for Black, it's an opportunity.
Red remembers growing up with Girl Scout cookies, with her favorite being shortbread (now known as the Trefoil), while hating (yes, it’s a strong word, but that’s how she feels about anything flavored with mint) Thin Mints. However, what she finds interesting is that as an adult, she’s been far more tempted by all the flavors (excluding anything mint, of course) even though she doesn’t consider herself a cookie person.
She bought last year’s “new” cookie, Adventurefuls, but was able to resist the brownie-based cookie with the center of caramel-flavored cream as she’s a brownie purist, but this year’s a very different story,
I’ve been doing so well getting back on track with healthy eating, but with the arrival of the Raspberry Rally, I could be in real trouble. A thin, crispy cookie infused with raspberry flavor, dipped in chocolaty coating, this is going to be almost impossible to resist. The good news is that it’s only available online as I always find it hard to resist all the Girl Scouts who “camp” out, pun intended, in front of my grocery store.
Black, who isn’t a fan of cookies or even sweets (unless you count sweet potatoes), buys a box of each flavor and immediately delivers them to the break room at her high-rise. Of course, she’ll ask the staff to let her know their favorite, but she won’t even try one cookie, not even in the interest of market research.
Black has always been fascinated by the history of the Girl Scout cookie and how a simple idea of selling cookies to finance troop activities has grown over 100+ years into an iconic and extremely successful way to raise funds. But, more importantly, it’s a powerful (and delicious) way for the girls to have fun while at the same time learning valuable business skills and life lessons. Which explains why Black always buys cookies, even if she doesn’t eat any,
Each year I seem to buy more cookies than the prior year since our local Girl Scout council has a program where you can buy cookies to be donated to military and first responders. It is a part of my “calorie free – for me” plan, as it is a great way to support the Girl Scouts and show appreciation for others because everyone loves Girl Scout cookies.
Whether you buy them as “thank you” gifts or just sweet treats for your family and friends (or yourself), please support your local Girl Scouts!
Two years ago, on MLK Day, Red learned the power and inspiration of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And the power of dreams. And as long as there's social unrest and social injustice in the United States (stop and think about the first word … as we’re supposed to be united), the more we can learn from him … as not only did he fight for equality for all, but his approach is proof of the power of peaceful protests.
For most of us, writing and delivering one powerful and/or inspiring thing would be a very difficult task. To be remembered for hundreds is truly amazing.