“May you live in
interesting times.” – Anonymous
“On second thought…”
Growing up, I sometimes
regretted that I had missed out on the “Swingin’ Sixties,” with all of that decade's societal
upheavals and explosions of creative freedom. Sure, you had a divisive and costly war, and I could have
done without all those assassinations, but at least big stuff was happening!
As I look back on the
past ten years of the “Still-Unnicknamed Zeroes,” I’d like to formally request
a little less turbulence in the next decade. Please?
No era is devoid of
history, but certain periods do seem to exceed their allotment of tumult, and
we are mired in a doozy. I find
myself reaching for Superman, Seinfeld, and Saturday Night Live for the appropriate
I believe we’ve been
living in the Bizarro Decade.
The Bizarros, for short.
Or, if you prefer,
Bizarr-Os, although that makes it seem less like a momentous period in history
and more like a sugary breakfast cereal.
As you may recall,
Bizarro was the topsy-turvy opposite of Superman. From Wikipedia:
the Bizarro world of "Htrae" ("Earth" spelled backwards),
society is ruled by the Bizarro Code which states "Us do opposite of all
Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything
perfect on Bizarro World!"
it’s the “War is Peace” newspeak of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four; but with
So many events from
these past ten years make much more sense when viewed through a Bizarro prism.
From 2000 (“Me get less
votes! Me President!”) to 2009
(“Us in debt! Us get money from Communist China!”).
From the frivolous (“Us
network called Music Television! Us not play music!”) to the deadly serious
(“Me in charge on 9/11! It not me responsibility!”).
Think I’m off base on
that last one? Recently,
President Bush’s press secretary Dana Perino stated:
“We did not have a terrorist attack
on our country during President Bush's term.”
She made this claim to
Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel, whose slogan, “Fair and balanced,” surely
emerged from a focus group on Bizarro World.
This is the same network
where Craig T. Nelson brought new meaning to the name “Mr. Incredible” with
perhaps the bizarro quote of the year:
been on food stamps and welfare.
Did anybody help ME out?”
Just as no
conveniently-labeled generation is monolithic in its beliefs and behavior, no
umbrella term for a decade is ever wholly accurate. The Twenties didn’t roar for everyone, and the last ten
years were arguably more “Gay” than the 1890s, depending on your definition of
And things haven’t been
all bad. Just try getting through
your day without an iPod (born in 2001), MySpace (2003), Facebook (2004),
YouTube (2005), Twitter (2006), or even the Huffington Post (2005).
Yet as technology
becomes more integral to every aspect of our lives, the certainties of science
are sneered at by legions of global-warming doubters and evolution
ignorers. For them, no amount of
evidence is ever enough, just as “birthers” cling to their conviction that our
president was not born in America, as if Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have eagerly
seized on that to blast Obama out of the presidential race when she had the
chance. I do give
anti-evolutionists credit for their internal consistency: their arguments don’t change over
time. But I can't help wondering how many people who scoff at climate change do believe that a flood wiped out the entire population of earth except for the passengers on one boat.
It does seem that our civil discourse has
become less civil and more coarse, to the point where, not only can’t we agree
on the proper solutions, we often can’t even agree what the problems are. In an envirionment so polarized and
fractured, no wonder we haven’t found a consensus descriptor for the past ten
As we wind down the
Bizarros and enter our new century’s Terrible Teens, desperate to steer out of
the skid in which we find ourselves, it would be wonderful if our better angels
and collective wisdom would lead the world to a new epoch of benevolence,
prosperity, and peace.
But me not optimistic!