Saturday, October 02, 2004

On Turning 50

This is not meant to alarm my family, who are busy digging out their books of remembrance to see what year I was born. I haven't lost all of my math skills yet. I turn 46 about two weeks prior to the election this year, and that's what got me started thinking about turning 50.

You see, my jubilee year just happens to coincide with yet another presidential election. We will, by that time, have had four years of either Dubya (again), or Flipper. We will either be worrying about who will replace Dubya to spearhead the still ongoing fight against terrorism, or who needs to replace the man who will by then have learned just how easy it is to get international consensus before kicking terrorist booty.

I turned 18 in 1976. I was, of course, eligible to vote in that election. As I remember it, I felt funny registering to vote while I was still 17, but it was my personal rite of passage into the strangeness of adulthood. My choices were Gerald Ford, whom I personally hadn't forgiven for pardoning Tricky Dicky, and the Peanut Man. I of course voted for Ford, for all the good it did. Carter won, and I left the country two years later for religious reasons. Really. Then I returned with new power and vigor and single-handedly got Reagan elected by a landslide. At least that's how I remember it.

As a much younger man, I voted the party line because I didn't know any other way. All I knew was that I, like my father before me, was a Republican. A member of the Grand Old Party. An elephant. Better that, I thought, than a jackass. I had no real idea what being a Republican meant back then, and I hesitate to mention that I'm not much better off twenty-some years later. But I'm still a Republican.

As I get closer to what I kind of hope represents the mid-point of my life, my understanding of issues has increased, but my tolerance for the political process has decreased. By the time I turn 50, I will patently hate the process. I will understand what must be done, but I'll hate it.

I'll hate it because this pivotal year of my life will be spent listening to carefully groomed individuals crow about how they will make my life better than it was four years ago. Not one of them will forward a truly unique idea, because there are no unique ideas left. Very much like Hollywood. Every new movie you will see four years from now has already been written and you've already seen movies just like them. But you'll probably plink down the gold it requires to see them because this version has much slicker computer graphics.

I'll hate it because not one single candidate will remind us that the government already has far exceeded its constitutionally limited powers and that we need to return to those constitutional limits. Rapidly.

I'll hate it because not one of them will have a common sense approach to getting this country out of debt. For good. They won't promise not to exceed our ability to spend, because they can't. It's pathological. They can't help themselves.

By the same token, I'm gonna love turning 50. Really. I've loved every decade mark so far, and I see no reason why 50 should be any different. It's an indicator that I have arrived at an age of respectability. I have worked long and hard to make it this far in life, and will still (hopefully) have energy to continue that work.

I have a loving wife and terrific children. We are firm in our religious faith, which brings us great comfort even in the face of tumultuous times. We weather storms and enjoy great sunshine together.

My career progresses. Perhaps not as quickly as I would like, but we're surviving and that's saying a great deal. I've just celebrated 20 years with the same company (or iterations of it... nothing is truly that constant anymore) and that's becoming more and more an exceptional thing. Dad did it for 42 years before he retired. Looks like I'm on track to do at least 45 before I can. That thought doesn't bother me like it did, say, 10 years ago.

My faith... well, my faith increases, oddly enough. When I was a kid, we had the Cold War. As an adult, we have terrorism. The earth is overheating. Its resources are being plundered and squandered. I know that just as surely as any moonbat conservationist or green activist. Am I worried? Yes. Am I frightened? A little. But my faith increases.

Every time I see my wife's smile.

I'll love turning 50.

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