By now many Americans have read the "Thank God 2009 is over" and "the 2000s were the worst decade ever" posts and news stories. I'll admit, 2009 wasn't as jubilant as 1999. We know a lot of people who have lost their jobs, their homes and are paying, in some cases, out the nose for health care many of us would have taken for granted twenty years ago. This was the year that we couldn't deny that we were regarded as the Great Unwashed by the majority of our elected officials and certainly by the masters of the universe who used to- and still do- run our financial system. For years we've been wallowing in excess, in many senses of the word. This year, a lot of that came home to us. And, perhaps most importantly of all, we were disappointed one more time as our leaders met at Copenhagen and came up with almost nothing. We're used to this by now, but every year the stakes get higher.
So yes, this year could have been a lot better. And this decade (see: Florida, 2000; September 11, 2001; Afghanistan, 2002-present; Iraq, 2003-present; Hurricane Katrina, Gulf Coast, 2005; Subprime meltdown, 2008; subsequent financial meltdown, 2008; etc.) has left much to be desired and I wouldn't wish this on us again.
But worst year or decade ever? Really? Every time I hear that, I flash to 1936, 1939 or the whole of the 1930s. And while the Chinese, Russians, Polish (and I'll include Koreans, although most of other lists leave us off) took that decade on the chin, American farmers and anyone who fell below the poverty line in that decade had their own brand of horror story that many of us cannot imagine living right now. As horrible as the 30s were, the first half of the 40s remain incomprehensible to me. 6 million Jews and 6 million combined Albanians, Gypsies, Polish, Slavs, Russians and others were murdered while the rest of the world, for all intents and purposes, blinked. Don't let anyone tell you that World War 2 was fought because of the injustices in Europe or Asia, because we didn't care until it was right up against us. And, of course, Pearl Harbor.
Which is not to say that for millions- billions?- of people throughout the world, this really was the worst decade. Environmental degradation is suffered the worst by people subsisting off the land in poor economies and under unstable governments. Our inability to respond to Katrina was amazing, but as horrible as that disaster was, it wasn't the tens of thousands that died in tsunamis in South East Asia. And our losses of home and insurance pale in comparison to the continuing genocide in the Sudan.
The travesty in Florida in 2000 reaffirmed my vow never to miss an election, even if it's for dog catcher. But as much as I might have felt my country was robbed by the result, it just doesn't stack up to what the Afghanistanis, Iraqis and Iranians suffered for their vote.
This was not the decade we dreamed about in 1999, but it could have been worse. Let's remember what we've lived through- let's be thankful for how bad it wasn't- and let's do our best to have something to celebrate in 2019.
Happy New Year,
Deb in the City