Decade from Hell

Posted Dec. 13, 2009, at 7:23 p.m.

The decade ends on Dec. 31. That’s right, the “aughts,” or whatever it is we agree to awkwardly call the 10 years from 2000 to 2009, are ending.

Time magazine argues that for Americans, this is “the decade from hell.” It began, readers will recall, with fears and warnings of impending calamity whose seeds lay in the dawn of the digital age. The Y2K problem launched the careers of some talk radio hosts, and ended them when the disaster some promised failed to materialize. Some good came out of it; the updating of computers and information system to ensure compliance acted as a mini economic stimulus plan.

But worse things followed. As Time magazine characterized the decade: “The first 10 years of this century will very likely go down as the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post-World War II era. … Call it the Decade from Hell, or the Reckoning, or the Decade of Broken Dreams, or the Lost Decade. Call it whatever you want — just give thanks that it is nearly over.”

An electoral crisis was the story of the year in 2000. It was the first time in more than a century that the candidate who won the popular vote, Al Gore, with 500,000 more votes, lost the electoral vote, to George W. Bush. Of course, there was more to it than that. There was a concession, a reneged concession, lots of lawyers, hanging chads and finally a 5-4 Supreme Court decision.

The 9-11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland defined the decade’s foreign policy. The impact of those attacks — which Time called the defining moment of the decade — cannot be overstated. Americans were violently shaken from their belief that the problems of the world were an ocean or more away. We learned our enemies were willing to sacrifice their lives to their cause and kill civilians in the process.

The ill-considered invasion of Iraq was, according to the last administration, linked to the terrorist attacks, as was the invasion of Afghanistan. Both continue to weigh down the U.S. financially, stretch the military to the breaking point and kill and wound Americans.

And then there is the economy. We may have forgotten already, but technology stocks tanked even before the 9-11 attacks. A recession seemed likely, but the attacks ensured it was deeper and longer. Then came the crash of last October, the worst since the Great Depression.

Time opines: “In large part, we have ourselves to blame.” The “striking common denominators” in the financial problems, war with radical Islam and even the devastation of Hurricane Katrina can be tied to, according to Time, neglect, greed, self-interest and deferral of responsibility.

Let those be the watchwords of the next decade.

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