“It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.” — Andy Rooney

Photo of Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney had a great sense of humor. On a normal day, Andy tickled me. It was like sitting on the front porch, rocking, and whittling a twig with grandpa. Andy’s wisdom was down home. Anyone could get it. He made us laugh at ourselves; other times he laughed at others, would get suspended by CBS, and return to apologize on “60 Minutes.”

I wonder what Andy would say now. It might be something like this.

There are rats in the house. I’m old. I’ve seen ‘em before. I saw it years ago when Joe McCarthy was a rat who fooled people into believing he was a cat, because he hissed at Democrats The rats never go away. They pretend to be cats, but no matter how much they meow, they’ll always be rats. You can’t hide a squeal in a meow.

The cats in the house are there to protect us, but the rats are onto them. They know how to trick us into mistaking a rat for a cat. Take this morning’s op ed, “The era of woke government is over” (StarTribune, March 3), by US Congressman Tom Emmer, for example, who seems to assume the readers are uninformed or mis-informed, and that, even if we are well informed, we’ve given up. We don’t care anymore.

But…wait! There’s hope, says the Minnesota Congressman. “We’ve taken a stand for American’s fundamental freedoms by denouncing socialism in all its forms and defunding the Democrats’ army of 87,000 IRS agents.”

Rep. Tom Emmer, Star Tribune op. ed., Friday, March 3

If Andy’s long life hadn’t ended, he might have a few things to say about freedom and socialism. He might ask you and I whether we know that freedom without accountability is chaos and lays the groundwork for terrorism, and haven’t we learned yet that freedom and responsibility belong together, and that socialism is one way to hold the tension? Have we learned that freedom is not freedom when books are banned, buried, and burned, and when you no longer can say certain words without having your freedom curtailed? Do we still believe that this country’s independence was born of the belief that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are among the unalienable rights to honor with our lives?

Newborn kittens don’t know a rat when they see it until their mother catches one, which may be why some folks hang around for threescore years and ten (70) or fourscore years (80), like Andy and most of my classmates. Old geezers like me remember when we could see the prices at the grocery store — there was no such thing as a QR code or a cell phone to scan the code — and the only trolls were three-feet tall fairytale figures who lived in castles, prowled around in the dark, and turned into stones or exploded when exposed to sunlight. It never occurred to me to think of trolls as rats before a troll trolled my FB page and threatened my safety on my MacBook Air.

Rep. Emmer’s op ed is no feline. I think I’ll put out some cheese just before dawn and hold my freedom and socialism close. I’ll give copies of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution to my grandchildren in hopes they’ll listen and see more clearly that we are not rats or cats, but human beings — outrageous, fearful, angry, often self-righteous, and accusatory, sometimes despicable, sometimes honorable — who all get old and leave the trolls and QR codes behind in our dust.

Gordon C. Stewart, public theologian, Brooklyn Park, MN, March 5, 2023
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About Gordon C. Stewart

I've always liked quiet. And, like most people, I've experienced the world's madness. "Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness" (Wipf and Stock Publishers, Jan. 2017) distills 47 years of experiencing stillness and madness as a campus minister and Presbyterian pastor (IL, WI, NY, OH, and MN), poverty criminal law firm executive director, and social commentator. Our dog Barclay reminds me to calm down and be much more still than I would be without him.

3 thoughts on “OF CATS AND RATS

  1. Barb, I wish I could say I’m on a different page, but I can’t. All I do is write on Views from the Edge, which, akin to Be Still!, only gets to a few good friends, like you and C.A. We’re living in a parallel universe. If you haven’t read “We’re Already Living in the Metaverse,” it’s well worth the read. Reality is no longer reality.


  2. We have stopped watching most TV about politics I am ashamed to say. Geezerdom was vey morose with 3 hrs per evening. We now just watch Chris Hayes, and Rachel on Mondays. However, we turned Chris off last night while trying to endure the news about what De Santis is doing to The New College. Horrible. No words- I’ve used them all too often. They have lost any meaning and all I feel is sick. Not watching helps. The Golden Years aren’t. And the worst- the very worst- is feeling paralyzed and powerless to do anything about it. I make calls, send letters, postcards and I vote, but nothing seems to change. And I loved Biden’s SotU!


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