The beginning of the century was warm.
New Year’s Day 2000 felt like the beginning of the century, even though I knew that I was a year early. It would be the year the computers would all crash. It would be marred by dire problems, the Second Coming, or some other disaster. Terrorists would take the opportunity of media coverage to execute some dire threat (remember Strange Days, anyone?).
But it wasn’t. None of that happened.
I was in Missouri, and it was unseasonably warm. A comfortable, clear day. I wore a t-shirt while my son was bored with all the celebrations on television. And everything went off right.
Planes did not fall from the sky. Computers did not crash. Celebrations went off beautifully, peacefully, around the world.
For a moment, the fighting seemed to stop. The economy was doing great. People were getting along. The violence and anger and tragedy of the world seemed to lower to a background whisper at the beginning of the century. It was the beginning of a better time for our world.
And holy crap, look at what happened next.
Terrorist strikes. George Bush pissing off pretty much the entire world. Enron and the first financial scandal of the decade. Thousands of soldiers dying in Iraq, in a war we didn’t need to be in. Tsunamis. Hurricanes. Housing markets collapsed, taking large amounts of the economy with it. Global warming summits come to no agreement, or worse, seem to be run by the rich and powerful. The various priest scandals in several denominations. Racial tensions resurfaced. Even the brief swell of optimism and hope from 2008 seems to have died in the name of so-called “political realism” and pork-filled compromise. Genocide after genocide happened, with the world failing to do anything but watch. Corruption and greed are everywhere. Cynicism is the only practical option.
And it’s frakking cold this year.
All this negativity gives me hope.
Unlike a decade ago, we’re feeling jaded again. All of us – regardless of creed or political orientation – had our ideologies compromised by those supposed to exemplify them. We have seen our beliefs manipulated for personal and political gain. That is why I have hope.
We have a choice, standing here at the edge of the second decade of this century. We can cling desperately to our ideologies and beliefs. We can ignore how they were used to manipulate us.
Or we can be pragmatic. We can focus on what works, and what doesn’t. We can focus on people instead of dollars. We can focus on making everyone’s life better.
It’s been a crappy decade. That’s no excuse for any of us to make the next one any worse.
Happy New Year, everyone.