Another birthday’s come and gone. A day formally acknowledging my actual age versus the preferred belief that one’s age is a matter of one’s outlook. Perceived age is totally a matter of personal choice. Living in the moment is the secret. Avoiding mirrors whenever possible is of great assistance. When encountering photographic evidence of one’s prior youth, merely note the coincidence of resemblance and continue moving on. 

Indigenous peoples supposedly once feared being photographed, as part of them would be stolen, held captive in the image’s likeness. When I heard that story as a child something resonated with my own aversion to having my picture “taken.” Something beyond shyness or the anxiety of looking unattractive. Something about stopping time, and the inescapable permanence of technology’s unerring remembrance. Something unnatural. 

Fortunately, some Kodak moments still survive from my earliest years where I somehow managed a genuine smile sans saying “Cheese.” The best of them remain proof positive that childhood was enjoyed most in full cowboy regalia, a deadly serious persona best accompanied by no smile at all in order to gain full effect but often nevertheless generating an irrepressible ear to ear grin. The worst of them are snapshots of a 24/7 self-consciousness in trying to transition into one’s first decade of double digits. 

My heart still goes out to a friend in second grade who failed to notice that his fly was open when our official class photo was taken. I can’t even imagine the gauntlet routinely run by youth today in a world where privacy is just another endangered species, the technological price of admission sacrificed on the altar of social media worship. Thankfully, the bullies of my day never had the opportunity of such a frequently antisocial enabler. 

Presently, our president purposefully presides as commander in chief of such destructive behavior. Openly hurtful commentary’s become an accepted form of discourse from either end of the sociopolitical spectrum. Unlike Nixon, Trump has no need for secret recordings of his ungoverned expressions of the trappings of tyranny. He readily reveals and updates his enemies list. Shamelessness is a prevalent perk enjoyed by those for whom notoriety reigns supreme. 

“All things must pass.” Longevity’s continually instructive in confirming that homily. Unfortunately, “What goes around comes around” is also a truism. Karma isn’t an exact science. I’ve always derived solace from Martin Luther King’s assertion that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” A great thing about getting older is that one has a personally verifiable history to combat the media hysteria du jour, though so many of my contemporaries seem unobservant of that comforting empirical comparison. 

Many forgetfully or unknowingly believe today’s politics are unprecedented. That this president’s the worst ever. The most harmful, hateful and capable of orchestrating the “biggest cover-up in American history.” Who knows, maybe he is waging an undisclosed war in Cambodia or selling arms to the Contras. Maybe Ed Snowden will again reveal massive KGB-like American surveillance of all citizens. I’ve been around long enough to well know that “you can’t make this stuff up” keeps happening anyway. Though it may seem that our everyday life will never be rid of Trump-bashing, it too will pass. In the meantime, how much one wishes to invest in that partisan obsession is unlikely to change how long it’ll take for that eventual passage to be achieved. 

Paul LePage. It took a little while, but that name’s finally fading from public memory, or at least from public attention. Knock on wood that it remains so. That his threat to seek reelection’s never fulfilled. Already, it seems that Janet Mills has been in office far longer than a mere one-eighth of a regime change to undo eight long years of LePage’s steadfast sabotage of progressive governance. Ironic for sure, who can say if Maine would even be on its current fast-tracked enlightened political course without having endured the dark ages of its previous governorship. 

Thankfully, Paul LePage wasn’t a true reflection of the state’s conservative electorate. Neither is Trump. Neither is Trump representative of all those elsewhere choosing to oppose Democratic politics. Far too many Democrats just don’t get that. Painting all Republicans with a dismissive Trumpian brush is hardly an accurate portrait of those who will always fundamentally differ politically. Hateful politics from the left isn’t fighting fire with fire but just fuels more intense divisiveness. Somehow, politics needs to establish a healing fire break where common ground can be acknowledged. Continuing to double down on feral partisanship is to continue being part of the problem. 

Come my next birthday I pray that more of us can think of ourselves not as party loyalists, or even patriots, but as part of an endangered humanity that requires a new concept of planetary allegiance. Maybe we can actually turn back the clock to when children didn’t need to concern themselves with what “existential threat” means. Let’s put away our escapist “next-gen” technological toys, venture out from our silos, accept our differences and get about ensuring our collective longevity. 

Gary Anderson lives in Bath. 

Comments are not available on this story.