Senator Dianne Feinstein talks with student activists about Green New Deal
When Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 85, snapped at a group of young climate activists visiting her San Francisco office recently — “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing!” — I felt the familiar tug of wanting to pass the torch while at the same time pulling it away at the last second with a “Not so fast, missy.”
Of course, “missy.”
It’s the same way I get defensive when asked by a fresh-faced activist-in-Anthropologie why my generation couldn’t pass the Equal Rights Amendment. They have no idea what it was like back then. Or what it’s like now, wanting to be magnanimous and expansive and act like every new idea has brilliant potential (yes, even the Green New Deal) and wanting to kinda pinch their cheeks to an uncomfortable degree.
And then, like a caricature of an aging activist just this close to wearing a Jitterbug in a lanyard around my neck so it doesn’t fall in the toilet, I tell the young hopefuls to “gather ‘round” and let me tell you about the time in 1971 I had a flat tire in rural Johnston County, N.C., and Bubba pulled over to help. He took the proffered jack and lug wrench and knelled down, eye level with my brand-new bumper sticker: “Vote YES! Equal Rights Amendment.”
“Change your own damn tire if you think you can do everything a man can,” said Bubba, before noisily peeling off and leaving me by the side of the road, wrench and jack looking forlorn in the muddy rut where he’d tossed them. Men are so emo, amiright?
Fortunately, a more enlightened soul came along to help, but the episode left me feeling as if I’d lost an important battle. I was embarrassed. Fortunately, with age comes wisdom and maybe even perspective so I realized my inability to change a tire on that sunny Carolina afternoon in the sticks didn’t mean I’d let down the entire sisterhood. No, of course not. No more than my ability to whip up a killer meringue means I’m an oppressed, kitchen-bound wife trapped on that Floating Island of the ‘50s. (It was a dessert, y’all.)
Like Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, 78, has found herself in defensive stance with the sharp-eyed, shiny new order of female progressives.
“I was carrying single-payer signs before you were born,” she says to them when they ask her to embrace progressive health care ideas.
Now if there’s anything we should’ve learned from the 2016 late unpleasantness, it’s to celebrate what we have in common and start from there. Always from there. No sniping, no ageist comments, no “Your generation sure left us with a mess.”
Young progressives come from a culture of snap judgment and instant ratings but this isn’t a skeevy Uber driver or an undercooked burger you’re judging. So, take a breath and don’t be so quick to give us 1 star. And we, in turn, won’t force you to take the torch from our cold, dead hands. I don’t think.
Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.