ddt spray

So … I think I’ll blur the details here.

There was this person who was expounding on the upcoming election and why he wasn’t going to vote for Hillary Clinton. It was his first time voting, you see, and he wanted someone who understood and represented his generation.

He said to me, “You don’t understand – ”

And that’s where I had to stop him. “Look, I do understand. Really.”

“How can you understand? You’re too old.”

“Do you think I was born old? Y'know, I have pictures. Here’s me at thirteen – ”

“But times were different then – ”

“Yes, they were. You could get polio and measles and smallpox. An appendectomy was a serious operation. People smoked everywhere, there was no getting away from the smoke. In school, they taught us to duck and cover in case of a nuclear attack. Whites and blacks still had separate restrooms and drinking fountains. Women couldn’t get a legal abortion. Gas had lead in it. Vegetables were sprayed with DDT. You could be arrested for being gay. Yes, times were different.”

“No, I meant that protesting was a fad, not serious like – ”

“Excuse me? Do you want to see the scar on my scalp where I was hit by a thrown bottle at the first gay rights march? We also had civil rights demonstrations, anti-war marches, and rallies for women’s rights as well. That was no fad. People were dying – ”

“No, look, man – it’s the establishment. That’s what’s wrong – ”

“And you want to replace the establishment with what? A different establishment? Listen – when I was your age, when my generation was your age, we were just as frustrated and just as impatient as you are now. Honest. Am I saying we were wrong? Hell, no. We were right. Better than that, we were so right, we were self-righteous. We went around saying, ‘Don’t trust anyone over 30,’ as if somehow when you turned 30, you became one of them. Y'know?

"You know what we missed? We missed the obvious – that there were a lot of good men and women over 30 who understood the issues, and the complexities of the situation better than we did – because they’d been fighting that fight for a lot longer. We had emotion, we had energy, we had spirit – but we didn’t have enough experience, enough history, enough of everything we needed to effect real change.

"So we didn’t turn out for Hubert Humphrey and we handed the country to Richard Nixon. And a generation later, other people didn’t turn out for Al Gore and handed the country to George W. Bush. And what was missed – both times – was the fact our impatience was the single biggest mistake we could make.

"Hubert Humphrey had experience, he had wisdom, and he shared our goals. Al Gore had experience, he had wisdom, and he shared our goals. But somewhere, enough of us decided that he was too old or too much of the establishment or didn’t really represent us enough, or would just give us more of the same when what we really wanted was more, better, and different, even if we couldn’t define it – enough of us felt that way to hand the presidency to a much worse administration.

"So, no – it isn’t that you’re wrong. It’s that there are people who’ve been down this path before. We know where it leads. And it’s not a good place. We know what this mistake looks like. Because we’ve made it ourselves – and we’re asking you not to make the same mistakes we did, because each time we make this mistake, everyone gets hurt.”

And he said, “So that’s a fancy way of saying 'suck it up, buttercup, you can’t have what you want.”

And I said, “No, but if that’s the way you want to hear it, then that’s the way you’re going to hear it. The way government works, nobody gets everything they want. The way government is supposed to work, everybody negotiates – and eventually everybody gets a piece of what they need to keep going. Nobody likes that, but consider what the alternative is – if some people get everything they want, that means a lot of people are going to get nothing at all. We keep trying that, it doesn’t work. Let’s go back to the stuff that does work.”

“But I don’t like her – ”

“I’m not asking you to like her. I’m asking you to respect that she knows how to do the job. He doesn’t. You can have your protest vote, that’s your right, but that’s letting everybody else decide who gets the oval office. And you might want to think long and hard about which of the two will build on what President Obama has accomplished and which of the two will tear it all down with no idea of why it worked in the first place. Your choice.”

And he said, “That’s not much of a choice.”

And I said, “The hell it isn’t. It’s a choice between experience and ignorance. That’s the clearest choice I’ve ever seen in an election.”

He didn’t have an answer for that.

And that’s the point –

'I might be old, but I’m not stupid. And I suspect that a lot of other members of my generation feel the same way. We remember when we were impatient. And we remember the mistakes that our impatience created.

“Old people don’t tell young people what to do and what not to do because we want to control your lives – we just want to warn you not to make the same mistakes we did.

"But you will. Or you won’t. Because it’s your choice. Always.”

—  David Gerrold