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Book: No Stone Unturned: The Life and Times of Maggie Kuhn, autobiography
No Stone Unturned: The Life and Times
of Maggie Kuhn, by Maggie Kuhn
"Old age is an excellent time for outrage. My goal is to say or do at least one outrageous thing every week" is a quotation often attributed to Maggie Kuhn, the founder of The Gray Panthers.

When I got my Medicare card this last August and officially became a senior citizen, I rushed off to begin claiming senor discounts in local stores. I started thinking about how those of us who are older are stereotyped. Old folks get hit with everything but the kitchen sink in negatives. We are castigated for being stuck in a conservative rut, and charged with every "ism" in the bigot basket. Old lady and old man jokes abound.

I can remember being afraid to start blogging at age 60 simply because I thought everyone who blogged was young and living in their parents' basements eating Cheetos. How's that for stereotyping? What could I possibly have in common with young bloggers?

I was wrong, and pleasantly surprised to find a lot of us from my generation and older right here at Daily Kos, and a great range of ages at Netroots Nation. More of us who have been on the front lines of organizing and fighting for decades are putting our arthritic fingers to the keyboard and sharing our experience and insights with many of you who may be younger, or the age of our grandkids, if we have them.  

I want to celebrate us today, and focus on that group we put in the "elderly or senior" box in polling data. Starting with the woman who put the term "ageism" into our vernacular—Maggie Kuhn.

PBS highlighted her life and the Gray Panther Movement in a documentary now distributed by Women Make Movies called MAGGIE GROWLS.

Maggie Kuhn was never afraid to march to her own beat and fight for what she believed. Born in Buffalo in 1905, she was a passionate social activist right from the start. Maggie entered the workplace in 1926, with a job at the YWCA in Cleveland, organizing poor and working women. In 1950, she began a 20-year stint in the Social Education and Action Office of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. It was a job she adored, one that kept her in the forefront of the social activist movement for decades. When she turned 65 and was forced to give up the career she loved, Maggie decided that she would not fade away quietly. Saying "don't agonize, organize," and reminding them that they had nothing to lose, she galvanized a group of friends and colleagues who had also been put prematurely out to pasture and launched the career for which she is renowned: as founder and leader of the Gray Panthers.

Maggie's second career unfolded in television appearances with Johnny Carson; on Capitol Hill, chiding senators and congressmen; and on the picket line, fighting injustice for all people, wherever she could. She also spoke fondly of her many love affairs and close friendships. Maggie's insistence on talking publicly about sex, which often made her listeners squirm, lead to a serious re-thinking about what growing old was all about. As Maggie said, "Sex and learning end only when rigor mortis sets in."

In an era replete with "movements," the media quickly latched onto Maggie. Looking like the stereotypical sweet little old lady, when Maggie spoke, people listened. With a disarming mixture of humor, shock value and common sense, Maggie deftly used her high visibility to combat media stereotypes that denigrated the elderly and went on to champion universal health care, nursing home reform, shared housing and consumer protection. MAGGIE GROWLS looks at the forces that shaped the movement as well as its leader, using Maggie's life as a lens through which to examine the intertwined issues of social reform and aging in America.

She spoke in Vermont four years before her death, introduced by Howard Dean, about the role of older folks, stating "we are tribal elders concerned for the survival of the tribe."  

Read her autobiography, No Stone Unturned: The Life and Times of Maggie Kuhn and the excellent study of a movement, Gray Panthers, by anthropologist Roger Sanjek which should give you some new insights into us "wrinkled radicals."

I spend quite a few mornings each month checking into Margaret and Helen's blog, to see what those two intrepid and acerbic oldsters have to say about recent events.

They do not disappoint. Helen had plenty to say about the first presidential debate. I savor her opening salvo.

Well Margaret, once again I am going to say what the media won’t. Mitt Romney is a lying sack of shit and he wouldn’t know a middle class tax cut if it bit him in the middle of his gold plated ass.
(Continue reading below the fold.)

She continues.

According to Etch A Sketch Romney there will be no tax cuts for the wealthy. After all, the 14% that Romney has been paying wasn’t so bad once he compared it to what everyone else was paying. Also there will be no government interference in healthcare decisions for Americans. Thank goodness because that government ban on abortion the Republicans want and Romney has promised really was a deal breaker for me. I am also delighted to know that Romney is going to force all of the states to finally implement healthcare reform. Considering they haven’t done it yet, I am not sure what he has in mind but I say bully for him. Yes. Romney needed a game changer and tonight he changed the game alright. He changed parties and became the liberal democrat we all knew he wanted to be.

If anyone out there has any idea of which Romney is running for President, please let me know because I can’t keep them all straight. Is he the guy who wants to end Medicare or the guy who wants to spend more money on Medicare? Is he the guy who wants to control my vagina or the one who believes that government shouldn’t be making healthcare decisions? Is he the guy who thinks that 47% of Americans are victims or the guy who thinks that tax cuts for the wealthy are a bad idea? Is he the guy who wants to work on day one with Democrats in Congress or the guy who on day one wants to reverse everything the Democrats accomplished? Is he the guy who likes Big Bird or the guy who will cancel Big Bird?

Margaret, that man has more faces than I have chins. I can’t keep up with which lie is the real lie. All this would be so much easier if Governor Romney would just do what he says his five sons do: pick a lie and stick to it. The way I see it, we’re all just a bunch of Big Birds. Romney looks right into the camera and says he likes us, but given the chance, he’ll fry us up and serve us on the closest ironing board Ann can find. I mean it. Really.

I then head over to visit Dorothy, who is the mom of one of Daily Kos' earliest members, Grassroots Mom. Encouraged by her daughter, Dorothy decided to blog and recently started outfrontpolitics. She's been an activist longer than many of us have been on this planet. She describes herself:

 "I walked my first precinct 67 years ago when I was eight years old. Been doing grass roots politics ever since. Worked at high level in Jerry Brown's 1st administration. A fighter."

She too was talking about the debate.

In Obama's position, I would have walked over and decked Romney.  That's one way to pin jello to a wall. Or, more accurately, to the floor.

What counts most is what we SAW. The visuals of television are what give it enormous power. The cliche that "the medium is the message" is quite true. Howard Dean advised this week that one turn off the sound and just WATCH the two men. I tried that, having recorded the whole thing. Romney LOOKED wildly desperate. And his hair was weird, different from usual and looking as though he'd forgotten to comb it.

But he also looked wild and desperate with the sound on.

Because he IS desperate! With Ohio apparently gone, he's sinking past any rational hope.

And in his despair, he threw Big Bird under the bus, specifically saying he "likes" Big Bird but would kill funding for PBS. And what about "Downton Abbey"? Is the man crazy? All over America millions and millions of viewers are waiting for January 6 and season three of America's favorite soap. It's women's Super Bowl!  Be sure to remind any wobbling voters you know  -  especially the women  -  that Romney wants to kill their favorite show.

The bottom line is still the same: Obama saved the auto industry, and that wise decision has saved Ohio for him. And he will save the rest of us from the rapaciousness of Romney's GOP. And he will also save Big Bird!  

The only way Obama can foreseeably lose this election is if Democrats don't get out and vote. Sadly, there is still a reported "enthusiasm gap". So we're the ones on the spot. If we don't help get out the vote, Big Bird can turn to us and say, "Et tu, Brute?" Coming from a bird, that will really hurt.

Though I am not hung up on polling data, recent polls indicate that seniors don't trust Romney's choice of Paul Ryan, and we now see bumper stickers proclaiming, "Keep your Mitts off My Medicare."

I sent links to everyone my age and those approaching it to The Agenda Project's "Granny off the Cliff" video.

I'm an AARP member, and chortled with glee when I saw clips from the recent convention where Ryan tanked and was booed by a majority of seniors there.


Don't think that Medicare is the only concern seniors have. We care about the economy, the environment, civil and human rights, and because senior women are the majority in this demographic, since we live longer, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one of my favorite groups of outspoken senior sisters, the Raging Grannies. They were founded in 1967 and still going strong, internationally, in groups they call "gaggles."

“Oh, we’re a gaggle of Grannies,
Urging you up off your fannies….”

I love the lyrics to the Uterus Song that they sing to the tune of "Bye Bye Blackbird."

If you’re a Republican, it’s okay to screw everyone,
Just don’t say “uterus!”
You can send our kids to war while watching your investments soar,
But don’t say “uterus!”

And of course, they issued the first salvo against Todd Akin's Legitimate Rape heresy.

“Legitimate rape” is great birth control.
So says Todd Akin, and he oughta know.
If we are raped we can rest unafraid,
‘Cause we can’t get pregnant if forcibly laid.
Our female bodies are clever that way,
We only get pregnant when we say “okay.”
Doctors have told him, so it must be so,
The stork only comes if we don’t say “No!”
Rape won’t make babies and that is a fact;
There’s no global warming; the Earth’s really flat.
We heard it on FOX News so it must be true.
Well, Mr. Akin, we say “FUCK YOU!”
Guess I'll expand that sentiment to all those Republicans who want to roll over and bury us card-carrying members of the 47 percent.

'Nuff said.

I'm heading to a meeting at the Senior Center to GOTV.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 10:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges and J Town.

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