A few days ago, I heard a story on NPR radio about life expectancy in the United States. Americans can expect to live to about 77 years of age, three years fewer than a few years ago. Our nation's life expectancy rate is lower than other developed countries.
NPR gave several reasons for our shorter lifespans, including COVID and drug overdoses. One NPR guest pointed out that deaths from childbirth are higher in the United States than in other wealthy countries.
The NPR story did not mention suicide, which has reached an all-time high in the United States. Nearly 50,000 people took their own lives in 2022.
Men are four times more likely to kill themselves than women, and elderly white men have the highest suicide rate of any subgroup--far higher than the suicide rate among young people.
The NPR story also failed to mention recent research that shows life expectancy rates among white working-class people have dropped dramatically, partly due to rising suicide rates and deaths related to drug and alcohol abuse.
These omissions reflect the interests of NPR listeners, who are probably more concerned about the rights of transgender college athletes than the death rates of elderly and working-class white people. Many NPR listeners are young, and in the minds of many young people, elderly white people are “old and in the way” (to quote a song released by a bluegrass band called Old and in the Way in 1975).
Indeed, many young American elites are afflicted with gerontophobia--the fear of older people. Therefore, when old white people commit suicide or die prematurely, it makes the world better for young people who will have fewer older adults draining the National Treasury due to Social Security payments and Medicare.
Also, many young progressive Americans seem to think all elderly white people are racists. Today’s intellectual and media elites have only a passing knowledge of history. I suspect many of them believe white people my age are all racists who were raised on cotton plantations and got rich by exploiting people of color. They might be surprised to learn that my parents grew up poor in the Dust Bowl of northwestern Oklahoma and never exploited anybody.
When I was younger, I practiced law in Alaska and represented several Inuit school boards. The Inuit respect the old people in their communities and consult them about unimportant community issues. The elders and shamans in Inuit villages are not elected. Instead, they achieve their status based on a record of good judgment, wisdom, and common sense throughout their lifetimes.
America has little use for older adults apart from the elderly scammers in Congress and our geriatric President. Perhaps that's why the Nation’s suicide rate is so high among older white men.
|photo credit: Dorothea Lange|