The end is near
The decade that's about to come to a merciful end was so bad that Queen Elizabeth might dub it "horribilis." No one has had anything good to say about it.
Time magazine let the bad times roll when it used its Nov. 24 cover to proclaim 2000-2010 "the decade from hell." My colleague Ruth Marcus said it should be called "the oughts" for all the things we ought to have done -- but didn't. Thomas Frank at the Wall Street Journal said the decade was "low" and "dishonest" due to all the economic follies, ranging from Enron to Abramoff. Paul Krugman called it "the Big Zero",
because it "was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true." And E.J. Dionne says today that it was a "reckless and squandered" decade.
I don't have too much nice to say about the low and dishonest big zero oughts, either. But when asked by NBC's Mara Schiavocampo to think of a name for the decade, I came up with "American Awakening." Sept. 11, 2001, Aug. 29, 2005 and Sept. 24, 2008 were three dates that awakened Americans to a new and unsettling reality.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 awakened Americans to the presence of a shadowy enemy unconfined by national borders that is determined to kill them and destroy their country through unconventional means. It also revealed a lumbering and unresponsive intelligence apparatus that failed to connect the dots that could have altered the events of that fateful day. Unfortunately, the attempted downing of Northwest flight 253 on Christmas Day is a troubling sign that the U.S. is awake but groggy when dealing with this constant threat.
Americans were awakened to the limitations of their government when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. They watched the people of New Orleans drown while the federal government took its sweet time to rescue them. I won't soon forget the images from the Superdome. Exhausted and haunted people pleading for help from a government that seemed indifferent to their suffering.
We awoke on Sept. 14, 2008 to discover that our economy was a virtual Ponzi scheme and sliding rapidly down a steep cliff. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America. And AIG was teetering on collapse. Bye-bye, voracious consumerism. Hello, lost jobs, homes and financial security.
The past decade has been humbling. So, now that we're awake, let's resolve to use the next 10 years to get it right.
| December 31, 2009; 9:53 AM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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