Inspired by Tom Brokaw’s interview on The Colbert Report, aired 12/16/09.
We are on the verge of a new decade. The 2010s. The two-thousand tens? The teens? Twenty-tens, perhaps? Despite its lack of a decent sobriquet, we are almost forced to expect things to be just a little bit “better” in the decade to come. I know many people who have had a rough year, personally, and are eager for it to end. Well, think of it this way. The worst (we hope) decade, politically, socially, and economically speaking, that we will have to endure in our lifetimes, is about to come to a close.
Think back to 1999. Prince’s song “1999” was re-released, and we were dancing in the streets as N*Sync, Britney Spears, and the Backstreet Boys were topping the charts. Our biggest fear was the Y2K bug, which fizzled into nothing more than a scare. The 90s brought some huge strides forward. We saw technological breakthroughs like the internet, widespread use of cellular phones, and the cloning of a mammal. Around the world, we see the reunification of Germany following the 1989 fall of the Berlin wall. Nelson Mandela was released from prison after thirty years therein. Here in the United States, we saw the successful presidency of Bill Clinton, and despite his personal indiscretions, he left office with a growing economy, the first budget surplus since the 1960s, and the second highest end-of-term approval rating for a president. Admittedly, there were some points of trauma (e.g. the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Desert Storm), but overall, it was a positive decade, and we couldn’t wait for things to be even better in the next millennium.
Enter the 2000s. The decade begins with the heavily contested presidential election, making our political system the brunt of jokes the world over. Bush Jr. left office with a 22 per cent approval rating, the lowest ever recorded since the poll was first taken. In 2001, we have the September 11th attacks, and months after that, a plane crash in Queens, New York killing 260. Natural disasters claim the lives of well over 100,000 worldwide. These include the European heat wave of 2003, Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Thailand, and the Sichuan Earthquake in China, which alone claimed just under 70,000 lives. The United States engages in two separate wars which still wage today. Over 6000 coalition soldiers’ lives (and also those of countless civilians) have been claimed by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Economically, we faced the greatest crisis since the depression, and we will leave the decade with the number looming right around 10 per cent. Banks have failed, automakers have failed, and in addition to personal job losses, we also face a public debt that is growing at an out of control rate. Most recently, the first public health pandemic in more than forty years, the H1N1 influenza virus, has a death toll of over 15,000 worldwide and continues to grow. I think I’ll stop there.
Despite all the hardship, we persevere, and we hope. Barring the 2012 Apocalypse that John Cusack has warned us about, the next decade begs to be better than our current one. Despite any personal gains one has experienced in this decade, looking at the big picture, it was a tough time worldwide. Do not be depressed, nor discouraged. Let us bank on the fact, or rather the probability, maybe even just plain hope, that the best is yet to come, and we might enter a post-war golden age like that of the 1950s. Or just something a little smoother than we’ve experienced over last 10 years. Come on 2010. We’re ready.