The paragon of large-scale elder abuse

Joe Biden as the paragon of large-scale elder abuse

By Richard Dean Young
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Watching Joe Biden lose it publicly (to put it kindly) has been a sad and disturbing spectacle in our country’s recent political experience.  My personal response to his verbal and emotional slip-ups when off script (and sometimes on script) has been increasing anger that those surrounding this man have subjected him to public alarm and ridicule for a medical process that would normally be worked through out of the public eye and far from the unforgiving meat-grinder culture of the political world.

My dad was a pastor most of his adult life and dealt with people at their best and at their worst.  I remember discussing with him the results of dementia in people.  Since he often accompanied people over long periods of their lives, he had built up his own body of wisdom, quite similar to what aging specialists today will share with us if we are listening.

One of my dad’s comments has resonated with me over the years as I have also been a pastor overseas in six different countries and cultures.  He said dementia itself does not “make” people mean or foul-mouthed or unwise in their comments; rather, it removes personal constraint, revealing more truly what is in the heart of the person.

Often, painful experiences of life can produce inward bitterness, hatred, or downright cruelty that is difficult to recognize, especially when individuals work hard to present a veneer of happiness or socially acceptable self-control.  It doesn’t always take dementia or some other illness to strip away that outer mask of civility; often, the careful façade can explode when a person is provoked or lets down his guard.  But generally, the mask soon comes back.

I have had similar experiences to those of my dad in dealing with people entering dementia, and I have been fortunate to have a much larger body of professional literature for reference than was available in his day.  Added to that has been a recent multiple-year experience of watching my wife slip into a condition similar to Alzheimer’s.  Anyone who has experienced up close the difficulties faced by the victims of these debilitating diseases understands the reality and the tragedy of watching a loved person subside into a world where he eventually becomes totally lost.

We are most aware of the symptoms of these ills when the person is still active in personal interaction and public settings.  Just like with Joe, things are said that are difficult to understand, or, even worse, humiliating expressions can be uttered that make everyone cringe except the speaker.  The growing sense of frustration and often embarrassment on the part of those close to these suffering folk is often palatable.

Several have recently commented on Joe Biden’s off-script anger.  His facial expressions when lowering the political boom on his enemies are not those of the previous smooth politician.  In fact, watching Joe making public statements is a discomfort to the nation as a whole.

A recent article by Anony Mee, while partially downplaying Joe’s dementia, underlines how Biden when “off script” reveals his true character: “Biden’s default setting is mean[.]”

While I don’t agree with much of Biden’s political stance, I consider that to be a secondary issue to the fact that he is not well and should never have been thrust into the public eye with the evident growing dementia from which he is suffering.

Apart from whether he will actually be sworn in as president, apart from whether he is a good man or a corrupt politician, apart from whether he might eventually step aside for his vice president, I consider it a case of public elder abuse to have used this man as a figurehead for a major political party.

I have been shamed quite a few times in recent years by progressives, and not for extreme right-wing stances by any means.  I wish there was some way to return the favor and shame a whole political coalition that took advantage of the patent weakness of a public figure to advance their cause.  Shame on you!

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