It is both an underappreciated detail and a morbid irony that, as it celebrates the presidential inauguration of a man nearing his ninth decade on earth, the American Left shows more scorn than ever for the elderly and old age. Take, for instance, Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and the brother of Obama’s White House chief of staff, whom Biden named to a COVID-19 Advisory Board. The good doctor so loathes the twilight years that he published at The Atlantic—reliable home of ever-so-literary sociopaths—an odious and depressing essay titled “Why I Hope to Die at 75.”
Therein, Emanuel insists that once one has passed the stage of effective productivity—when the mind slows and the physical faculties fade, when one cannot give much back to society and must rely on it instead—life is not worth living. It’s a gruesome argument, one that assumes implicitly that life has no innate value beyond what we are able to produce. But its spirit is startlingly common, though it rarely receives such candid expression; that we are mere cogs in a machine is a fundamental assumption of a number of ideologies that dominate today, and that the elderly and infirm are worn out cogs (and therefore of no value) is a logical conclusion from the premise.
If we had any need for a dramatic illustration of our society’s disregard for the elderly, Andrew Cuomo gave it to us. In March 2020, early in the COVID-19 crisis, the New York governor—who, like Biden, happens to be Catholic—mandated that nursing homes must take in residents who had contracted the virus, so long as they were “medically stable.” By May, recognizing the disaster he had caused, Cuomo rescinded the order—but not before 4,500 COVID-19-positive seniors were placed in New York nursing homes, according to the Associated Press. As we know well by now, seniors are far more vulnerable to the virus than are young and otherwise healthy people.