FOUR days ago, 14 congressmen sent this letter to Joe Biden, 78, expressing “concern” about his “cognitive state” and calling on the human forgery to submit himself to a thorough mental acuity test – results to be published in full – as soon as possible. The letter includes numerous examples of public befuddlement that may flag a serious crisis, either present now or clinically portended. Having always been sceptical of group letters with lofty moral purpose and commensurately high political stakes, I’m not going to assign to this one any more gravitas than I did to the many others. The signatories should be holding Biden to account for what he corruptly allows to happen, not for words he mispronounced or names he forgot.
This is not about Joe Biden, however. It’s about how mistaken it is to mischaracterise his every catastrophic blunder. Yes, there is cause – ample and just – to lament the lowly intellect and the dazed mind but we insult the elderly generally when we mock old age itself to draw attention to what is, at root, cowardice and moral perversity. Biden deliberately chooses to be what he is. Far from representing his venerable contemporaries, he is an embarrassment to most of them. It was Catallaxy’s own seniors that inspired me to re-think how we speak about the man I call the Acting President. They better him in the comparisons that matter; the ones that can’t be measured with a test. Life experience, dignity, wisdom, sincerity, humour. I also remember what a vibrant young soul St John Paul II always was – even as an ailing octogenarian. No, Biden doesn’t have to be ousted because he’s old. He has to be ousted because he – and the malefactors around him – are malicious.
For the same reason, I was pleased that Peter Wegner’s portrait of Guy Warren (above) won this year’s Archibald Prize. Certainly, the selection of a 100 year-old artist-sitter for the 100th Archie was surprisingly corny. For once, though, the aesthete high command’s theme-rigging was true to the times – albeit, perhaps, accidentally. Elegantly composed and softly coloured, it is a work of sentimental realism. World War II veteran Warren looks like a man humbled by his own survival; his face belies no trace of omniscience. My Mum looked like that. The closer to the end she got, the more unknowing her knowing. Not everyone would see in the jumper adorning the old man’s white ensemble the red mozzeta and stole of the popes but it symbolises authority as much as sanguinity in my imagination. Warren could represent a generation of seniors who have had to sit through a frightening time – sometimes with glass between them and the world. To the young, he seems to say only this: ‘Live – what else can you do?’