The other day I mentioned to a friend of mine that while I knew “2020” was the next year chronologically, it had not crossed my mind what this means.
We’re getting near the third decade of the third millennium.
Twenty years since y2k, that old chestnut best left forgotten if it didn’t seem so quaint in retrospect.
If you don’t recall, in 1999, the media hyped up the fear that when the big computer clocks ticked over into the new millennium the machines wouldn’t understand it was 2000 instead they would think it was 1900. This was because up to that point only a two-digit year had been used for computer data or some such reason.
Obviously this would have had a serious effect on financial systems and, as we were told, maybe even the electric grid.
Chaos, we were led to believe, might break out. The evening news would tell us about how people were ransacking grocery stores for water and canned goods. They were loading up for the apocalypse.
Who could tell?
A couple of people could. Very smart people, or smart enough, had fixed the glitch long before the new millennium.
That information wasn’t really passed on to all of us rabble. I remember watching the New Year’s celebration in New York on television at 11:59 pm. I watched the ball drop and at a minute past midnight…the lights were still on…the TV was still on…chaos didn’t appear to be breaking out when I looked out the window.
Everything was the same. We were safe.
2001 – Not long after that we were all taken by surprise when an airliner crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. Then another hit the South Tower. What the hell was happening? No one on television seemed to know.
A plane crashed into the Pentagon. Any chance that this was some kind of accident passed like so many leaves in the wind. We were under attack.
Then the Towers fell.
3,000 people died and untold damage was done to those who helped search and clean up Ground Zero.
We’ve been fighting the wars related to Bush’s War on Terror since.
Who knows what effect this has had on the country’s psyche, the cultural zeitgeist. We flock to Super Hero, Large Monster, or Big Robot movies to see cities destroyed. The box office numbers for some of these films are the largest in history.
Nothing was the same. We sought safety.
2008 – The first black President is elected. Barack Obama became the 44th President. This momentous event allowed some to declare we now lived in a “post-race” society.
Obama, because of the state of Congress at the time, was unable to get much done. He wanted to close Guantanamo Bay but Congress would not appropriate the money to do so.
In addition to this, the so-called Great Recession crippled his first term as he tried to trudge through this quagmire of American finances.
That said, he made a number of steps forward. The Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. He also signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. His administration filed paperwork that pushed for the legalization of gay marriage.
Before he left office, the Pentagon shot down the policy that barred transgender individuals from serving, openly, in the Armed Forces.
He served for two terms, he did okay in the end.
Nothing was the same. We felt safe.
2016 – A surprising election. In a surprise to most pollsters, Donald Trump was elected President. He pulled out of the Paris Agreement. He reversed the policy which allowed trans people to serve in the military.
Then he became the third President to be impeached by the House of Representatives.
Abuse of Power.
Have we been here before?
How did we get here?
Will the Republic survive?
Somehow it feels like more of the same. When will we be safe again?
The other day I stopped into a corner store to get a drink. The man in front of me in line asked the guy behind the counter if we lived in a Monarchy or if it was still a Republic.
The guy behind the counter looked at him, puzzled.
“What?” he asked.
He repeated his question slower. Honestly, I thought it was just more New Orleans wingnuttery.
“What, the store?”
“Did they impeach the motherf***er?”
I forgot it was the morning of the impeachment vote and it hadn’t come in just yet.
It’s a strange time and although I’ve pointed to a few of the ups and downs we’ve seen in the past twenty years, one must remember that history is not linear.
There is no real safety because there is no real baseline.
We’re just making it all up, spinning on this rock, going through space and hoping we don’t fall off. For every moment I’ve brought up in this column, there are 1,000 others both positive and negative that aren’t mentioned here.
But although things can get really dark sometimes, there’s always hope. Even during the y2k hysteria, there was always tomorrow.
Happy New Year, friends.