Remember what excitement there was in the air when we rang in 2000 on
New Years Eve 10 years ago?
No one knew whether the wheels would fall off civilization as a result
of the Y2K, but we were exhilarated by the dawn of a new millennium
and the thrill of witnessing another 1,000 years of human progress. I
recall joining friends at a local nightclub that night, listening to a
band called Daddy Longlegs as the clock ticked midnight, and wondering
what kind of amazing good time we were in for in the 00s.
Flip ahead 10 years to a time when the joy has been sucked out of that
balloon by what has been one of the most dismal decades in American
history: a time that included 9/11, two wars,
Hurricane Katrina, and one of the worst recessions ever. In a Pew
Research Center survey, Americans stated by nearly a two-to-one (50%
to 27%) margin that the 2000s had been a negative time for America.
On the other hand, 59% of Americans believe that the 2010s will be
better, so lets dish out another bowl of that New Years Eve
exhilaration in the hope of better times ahead.
Although the 00s have been a dark time for America, and Michigan in
particular, we still have reason to be grateful that things are not as
bad off as they could be. Although we have unemployment topping more
than 10% in Michigan, we dont have hundreds of thousands of people
living homeless on the street, with only a cardboard mattress for a
bed and the sky for a roof. Thats the fate of millions around the
world... but not here.
We still live in a land where big box stores need to take precautions
at Christmas so that customers dont get trampled to death in the rush
for flat screen TVs when the doors open on Black Friday.
So here are a few contrarian things to be grateful for as the calendar
turns to 2010:
Be grateful that when the Twin
Towers fell in September, 2001, that the Bill of Rights wasnt
vaporized along with them. True, there were encroachments on privacy
with the Patriot Act, and many Americans turned a blind eye to
torture, secret prisons and a unilateral war based on lies. But
somehow we pulled through that ugly time and those ills are on the
wane. Guantanamo prison is set to close in the coming year and
waterboarding has been roundly condemned as barbaric. Are we better
people now than we were when 2000 rolled around? Probably not, but
surely were a bit wiser.
Were not in a Great Depression. Recessions are painful and seem to
last forever for those who are jobless in their midst, but they come
and go every 10 years or so in America, and this one will pass.
Things could have been much worse: Although there has been a great
deal of criticism of bailing out Americas banks with TARP funds, it
was that action which prevented the far greater disaster of a global
The endless War on Terror seems to be finally over. Remember the
color-coded alerts? Remember the whole country living in a constant
state of fear over some guys wearing sandals and living in caves half
a world away?
As imperfect as it seems, the health care reform bill moving through
Congress will ultimately benefit both citizens and our economy. I
know of many uninsured friends and relatives whod lose their homes or
be forced into bankruptcy as the result of even a few days of a
hospital stay. Thats an ill situation which we should remedy in the
Be thankful that Michigan still has a manufacturing infrastructure.
Our state is reinventing and rebooting itself, as is the entire world.
New green technologies in automobiles, energy and mass transit are
taking shape, and Michigan still has the resources to benefit from
Well see the ice break on Michigans fortunes for the simple reason
that many Americans have held onto their cars and trucks for an extra
year or two through the recession. Those vehicles are wearing out, and
soon there will be a demand for the new generation of hybrid/electric
products from Michigan automakers.
Were thankful that the war in Iraq is winding up, even as we deal
with the consequences of 5,288 American service persons dead and
35,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not to mention more than
100,000 Iraqis who died, or millions driven from their homes as
On that score, theres one thing we cant be grateful for as 2010
comes into view: that we still believe that war is a solution, rather
than a curse.
I personally am grateful that Northern Express Weekly has weathered
the great newspaper apocalypse of 2008-2009, and has in fact
thrived. We owe that to our magnificent staff (hard-working, selfless
geniuses, every one) and to you, our loyal readers (smarter than
average and certainly better looking). Heres hoping that all your
dreams come true in the 2010s. Happy New Year, and New Decade.