That Was the Decade that Wasn't
And you thought the eighties sucked!!!
"SCHOOLS TRY TO KEEP KIDS FROM STARVING"
Sweet. The article tells us that at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, children are going hungry. This story does not take place in Appalachia or in southern Texas along the Mexican boarder. It's taking place right outside of the house that I live in - HERE - in upstate New York; in what is supposed to be one of the most affluent regions in the United States of America! How the hell did this happen? It wasn't like this ten years ago.
I can remember exactly where I was when this awful decade came into being. Believe it or not, when I rang in the new year on January 1, 2000, not only was I stone-cold sober - I was at church! My then-girlfriend and I attended a special midnight mass at the local Catholic church to welcome in, not only a new decade, but a new century and a new millennium. I remember feeling filled with optimism. By entering this new era, I felt, we could wipe the slate clean. Maybe this would be a new age of peace, love, brother and sisterhood. EVERYBODY SING!
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius!
Age of Aquarius!
How utterly naive on my part, huh? By year's end, all of that hope was out the window and into the toilet. In December of 2000, an ideologically perverted Supreme Court would assist in a stolen election by stopping the vote count in the state of Florida, installing a corrupt little frat boy with the I.Q. of a half-eaten box of Milk Duds as president of the United States. It was all downhill from that moment on. From the birth of "Reality Television" to the worst attack on American soil since the Civil War, it was quite a strange ten years to say the least. Thankfully this awful decade is a mere three days away from being forever consigned to history's scrap heap. Hallelujah.
Let's face some serious facts here, boys and girls: Forty years ago the most popular people on the planet were the Beatles - four guys who really stood for something. Show me a decade whose most sought-after celebrity is Paris Hilton and I'll show you a decade that is going to have....uh...."issues" shall we say? A period of time where someone like George W. Bush can be elected to the presidency is going to have its own special problems to be sure. A little over a year ago, Sarah Palin - Fascist Barbi - was selected by a "main stream" political party to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. As I write these words there are a whole lot of Americans out there who would just LOVE to see her as the grand old party's standard bearer in 2012. She may even end up as the best-selling author of the decade. What does that say about American culture? Volumes.
My plan was to quit drinking on New Year's Day. I'm starting to have serious second thoughts however. Watching the utter implosion of the country that I love so much has definite advantages from the vantage-point of the bottom of an empty vodka bottle. In fact it can be a lot of fun! Better to giggle when shit-faced than to weep with your faculties intact. The last ten years have been such an utter train wreck that it is difficult - if not impossible - to take it all in in any other condition than complete, alcohol-induced giddiness. When one is forced to witness the total decline of what used to be a grand civilization, it generally is a good rule-of-thumb to have an artificial stimulant at the ready. Heroin is too expensive and marijuana gives me terrible anxiety attacks. So make it one for my baby and one more for the road, Joe....
By the way, after being forced to live in it for ten whole years, I have yet to figure out what we're supposed to call the first decade of the twenty-first century - The Hundreds? the The Aughts? The OH!'s? I think it's interesting that we can't even define it. Whatever the name, it's a safe bet that it will not be remembered as one of the shining hours of American history. As weird as the sixties were, much good came out of that tumultuous period: the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, manned missions to the moon, the Peace Corp, the Women's Movement, carrot cake - lots of neat stuff. What good came from the decade which is about to mercifully end? Survivor? Michele Bachmann?? Jackass??? Have another sip. I'll join you.
Or maybe it was all just a horrible nightmare? Of course I'm being facetious, but there were more-than-a-few times during this hideous decade - particularly during the years in which the Bush Mob ran the country - that I would awaken suddenly in the middle of the night and say out loud,
"Did I dream that?"
"Is Bush seriously president?"
"Did we actually invade Iraq?"
"Are the Spice Girls really number one?"
And a special tip of the old fedora to George W. Bush. Anyone who can make me nostalgic for the likes of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan has a certain talent, no doubt about it. His entire eight-year-reign seems almost surreal in hindsight. In a twisted and cynical paraphrasing of Charles Dickens, "It was the worst of times. It was the worst of times." What a long, strange trip it's been. As the great Hunter Thompson liked to say, "Buy the Ticket. Take the ride."
It's unnerving to even contemplate where the end of the following decade will find us. Men in my family tend not to live much into their sixties so I am partially comforted by the idea that I won't be around to deal with it (I turned fifty-one on August 16). Then again, they occasionally get lucky. My uncle Jerry Degan turned eighty-three recently so who knows? One thing is certain, though - unless the American people (as well as the people of the planet earth) radically readjust their thinking, there is not a hell of a lot of hope for humanity. It is my belief that we must take a hard turn to the left - and not the timid baby steps we took in 2009. Are you listening, Mr. President?
So here's to the OH'S! or the AUGHTS - or whatever the heck you want to call them. We must concede that for all the turmoil and hopelessness of this hideous decade (and unlike the nineties) it never - not for a minute - got boring. The after-effect of the last ten years will be with us for the rest of our lives and beyond. Sort of like a really ugly tattoo obtained on a drunken binge. It really was interesting time to be alive if you think about it.
Happy New Year, everyone.
QUOTE OF THE DECADE:
"Brownie, you're doin' a heck of a job!"
George W. Bush
Bill Moyers' Journal
Friday 9PM EST
Sunday 7PM EST
There is still this quiet and gentle island of wisdom in the ocean of reaction and pornography that television has become. God bless you, Mr. Moyers.