THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL

As of this morning, I have been alive for 28 years. Quite a miracle, when you stop to think about it. At the close of the 19th century, the global life expectancy for a male was 35 years. In ancient Rome and Greece, life expectancy was 28 years (so Jesus both died young and beat the odds by 5 years). Today, in the three lowest life expectancy nations of sub-Saharan Africa (Swaziland, Lesotho, and Botswana) the average male can expect 32 years on this Earth – compared to 81 in Japan or 77 in the US of A.

Furthermore, my status as a free man here in 'merica is equally remarkable. If you take the cohort of african-american males born in any given year and then check back on them in 28 years, 22% of them will be dead or incarcerated. For white males, the same figure is 4%. Thanks, entrenched social inequality!

I could recount the extensive list of great people who accomplished great things and checked out before they turned 28, but suffice it to say that birthdays cease to be fun once you get out of college. Aside from the fact that you end up working on 5 out of every 7 birthdays after that point, it turns into a rather melancholy reminder that you're A) getting closer to dying and B) you haven't really accomplished anything. No one actually expects you to have done anything when you turn 19. But turning 28 – or 30, or 35, or 40 – and saying "Wow, I make minimum wage and can't really point to anything noteworthy I've done"….well, that's just not worth celebrating.

So here's to 28 years of me. One year closer to losing my hair. If nothing else, I'll celebrate by considering the fact that the national GOP is having to spend millions to protect House seats in Wyoming, Nebraska, and Idaho to be a birthday gift from the Lord. I'll consider the fact that I have to start teaching a 3-hour night class tonight (after my regular 75-minute lecture) to be….what's the opposite of a gift from the Lord?

Oh, right: a swift kick in the nads.

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