At the turn of a millennium, the odometer of our lives clicked into years with more than one zero in them, setting off a decade of losses:
Economy, in a meltdown with budget surpluses becoming record deficits. National security, two wars–one pointless, the other unending. Political life, in the dumpster. Social well-being, off the charts with fear, distrust, animus and anxiety for the future.
All this can’t be entirely blamed on Presidents and politicians. We picked them, so they must represent our collective wisdom–or lack of it. (Was Pogo right?)
A high-schooler I know is writing an essay on the most significant event of the decade. My choice is 9/11, which changed our perception of getting up every morning and feeling safe in the world, bringing political and social transformations, all for the worse.
Without 9/11, Bush’s Neo-Cons could not have taken us into a war that did nothing for our security, drained blood and treasure, and damaged our standing in the world.
Along with foreign-policy hubris were eight years of bipartisan domestic neglect, weakening regulation of a financial system gone wild with greed that drew over-entitled but unqualified individuals into home ownership, resold their inevitable failure and brought the economy to its knees.
To deal with all this, two years ago we elected a President of intelligence and good will (while congratulating ourselves for ending centuries of racial inequality) and tasked him with cleaning up a monstrous mess in face of a disloyal opposition bent only on his failure at the nation’s expense.
Under the circumstances, Barack Obama may be better than we deserved to get, his political tribulations of the past two years notwithstanding. Fault him for unrealistic hopes of GOP cooperation and for stubborn persistence with health care reform, leading to iffy distant benefits but sparking Tea Party rage at what could be sold as a “government takeover.”