January 2, 2011
Another Decade DONE!
Today is the second day of twenty eleven. Or is it two thousand eleven? It’s also the second year of a decade, but it feels like the beginning. In a 2009 article titled “The Decade from Hell,” Time said “the first 10 years of this century [2000-2009] will very likely go down as the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post–World War II era.”
One social commentator blamed the lousiness of the decade on the fact that it never received a proper name. Was it the “double ohs”? Was it the “aughts.” It was neither and nothing, just one year after another of bumps and IEDs in the road. Twenty ten only continued the dismal pattern so I count it in the decade from hell.
'Cuz they say two thousand zero zero party over
Oops out of time
So tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999
The years 2000 to 2010 may have been miserable, but where did they go so quickly? Weren’t we gearing up for Y2K. only a few months ago? We were worrying about worldwide computer failures while we hoarded canned food and water, bought generators and sang along with Prince.
Nothing significant happened with the dawn of the new millennium, but then the shit really hit the fan:
9/11. Enron. WMDs. The War in Afghanistan began October 2001 and it continues. Osama bin Laden. Anthrax letters. The D.C. snipers. The War in Iraq, March 2003 to today. Mission Accomplished. The explosion of space shuttle Columbia. Chads. Chechen rebels held 1,000 hostage in a Russian school, and killed 385 people, including 186 children. Peru’s Shining Path Maoists resurfaced, blew up cars and murdered a lot of police.
Terrorists exploded three trains in and near Madrid, killed 131, injured some 400. Hurricane Katrina, late August 2005; the unofficial direct and indirect death toll is over 4,000. FEMA. Abu Ghraib. The trial and execution of Sadaam Hussein in 2006. An earthquake in China killed nearly 70,000. Around 300,000 people in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia killed by tsunamis.
A magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti January, 2010; 52 aftershocks; an estimated three million people affected; an estimated 230,000 people died, 300,000 injured and 1,000,000 homeless; 280,000 residences and buildings collapsed or severely damaged. Obscenely wealthy Dubai opened a 2,716.5 foot skyscraper, the world's tallest. Rod Blagojevich. 4,000 people in China killed by an earthquake. The BP spill in the Gulf. Somalia pirates.
According to a UN report this past June, “an estimated 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and more than 2.6 million displaced since ethnic rebels took up arms in 2003.” Millions have died in eastern Congo. North Korea got feisty with South Korea. This year, over 11,000 died in the Mexican drug war.
Lehman Brothers. Wall Street. Mortgages and foreclosures. Bernie Madoff (and son). Unemployment. From 2006 to March 2010, the number of Americans receiving emergency food assistance each week rose 27 percent, to 5.7 million.
For the times they are a-changin'.
After 75 years being a full-sized planet, in 2006 Pluto was demoted to “dwarf.” USB Flash drives replaced Floppies. VHS thoroughly died; we Tivo, or watch Jon Stewart on our computers. CDs? Nope, MP3s. Twitter is huge; Facebook and YouTube, Wii and Wi-Fi too. We now have iPods, iPads, iPhones and Kindle. Digital books are outselling hard covers. Landlines are obsolete. Preschoolers have smart-phones that reveal where the closest yellowtail hamachi is served and measure heart rate. We text. Once indispensable , the fax machine collects dust.
Since 2000, close friends have drifted away; happily, a few relatives and longtime acquaintances grew closer. Bill’s best friend vanished; even his family doesn’t know his whereabouts. Some of you have had children, grandchildren, great grand kids (Bill’s included here), and great-great grands. My dad, Bill’s mom, a number of loved ones, coworkers, and buddies died.
We had eight glorious vacations in the Outer Banks. Those days have ended. Surgeries. Health issues. Our income went from “doing just fine” to diminishing returns. Both Bill and I reached the age of Social Security. The mail carrier just delivered Bill’s first retirement check, mandatory disbursement from a IRA reduced to paltry since the crash.
“America's workforce is splitting into high- and low-paying jobs. The middle-income demographic is disappearing,” stated MIT's David Autor. Most of us are living simpler, cooking more and braising cheaper cuts, concocting casseroles, and eating our leftovers.
Not everything about the two thousand zero zeroes sucked. A lot sucked, but not every thing. The Saints won the Super Bowl in the Superdome, to the joy of both true and ersatz New Orleanians throughout the U.S. of A. A woman finally received a Best Director Oscar. An African-American was elected President, and the Supreme Court seated its first Latina. NASA discovered a new life form.
From my chair, almost anything I want to know is available without venturing out in frigid temps to a library. I can Google and Wikileaks, read newspapers and media sources from outposts around the globe, learn what people are thinking and how they think, sample the latest Black Keys, Anna Netrebko or Hiromi Uehara, discover how to prepare veal sweetbreads, and research this column.
If all this change happened in the last 11 years, what will life be for us in 2021?
This past summer, sitting on the back porch sipping adult beverages, Bill and I agreed that we can see the end of our journey together. The view is fuzzy, like a heat mirage on a highway, but it’s there and it’s real. The next ten years are guaranteed to fly. Every minute counts more now than it did when we married in 1977. I want to savor whatever moments we have left. I’ll do my best.
If the Mayans are correct, the end of the world will be December 21, 2012. We’ve got less than two years.