As we approach 2010, I wanted to look back on 2009, and share my entrance-to-2010 thoughts.
The first 20 days of 2009 were still, in many ways, attached to 2008. George W. Bush was still the president (at least officially) and we were reeling from the last 8 years, when the 1st decade of the new millennium ended with a thud. (This era/decade was only 8 years long, in much the same way the 1960’s didn’t really start til Kennedy died/the Beatles arrived in ’63/64).
2009 at the beginning looked for all the world like the beginning of the 2nd Great Depression. Banks were going under, the stock market was a mess, houses were being foreclosed, we were fighting an unpopular and (some would say un-neccessary) war. Health care costs were through the roof. Nobody knew what to do, so the government bailed out the banks, bailed out the Big 3 automakers, and tried the “Cash for Clunkers” program.
To his credit, Mr. Bush shared power with the Obama group and let them “hit the ground running”. President Bush had realized, I think, that he was a “lame duck” and something needed to be done, so he gave the new guy a shot. Dick Cheney, the VP at the time, didn’t hand over power so easily, but OK, something got done.
We still don’t know if it was the right something to be done, as the results still aren’t in. The banks seem to be stabilized. Cash for Clunkers was an old style capitalism “giveaway” type program which was, frankly, too successful.
Executives continued to get richer and their salaries were — for the first time in years — questioned. Maybe they didn’t deserve millions of dollars while laying hundreds or thousands of people off.
Already out-of-breath from working so hard, Obama had his big inauguration. There was dancing in the streets and hope in the air from my liberal/radical political friends. The country had its very first African-American president.
He spoke well, he danced well, his wife was gorgeous in all her outfits, he had cute kids and kept his first promise — he got the family a dog. It was not exactly the earth shattering moment we had hoped for, but at least nobody was out-of-work because of it.
We had our first hispanic female on the Supreme Court, with a little to-do about it, but no big deal.
Then it got nuts. The president took on the Powers That Be — the medical establishment, the insurance establishment, and conservative Republicans all at once. By that, I don’t mean anybody in office. I mean Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and a whole bunch of other bullies in the media that bear no resemblance to Gerald Ford or Bob Dole.
Since then, every lunatic in America has come out of the woodwork. People who think Obama’s not American, people who thought Obama was going to spread propaganda in out schools, people who think Obama’s middle name (Hussein) means he’s a terrorist, and the list goes on.
The media must be thrilled by the ad revenue this year generated by who ever is spending their money barraging my TV with ads against the health care reform. In places like Connecticut, where Sen. Lieberman seemed to give them an inch, they asked for a mile. “Tell Senator Lieberman to start again!” the ads say here. So far, that’s been the scene in 2009: Chaos. No longer are we getting worse as a country. We have stopped the bleeding, but we’re still in a war zone of propaganda and opinion.
I should say here that I have come to have respect for other opinions on Health Care Reform. The people that have debated in these pages have made good points and I have, for my part, called them idiots. Remember that thing in school about one finger points away and three fingers point back. It’s still true. Defending the poor and getting them what they need (my goal) is not at all the same as calling people idiots(not my goal). Hopefully as more people get what they need, I won’t be so prone to anger. I got frustrated this year, a lot. That’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation.
BTW, I still think the single-payer system is our best option, by far. I also think that there are so many other pieces to the puzzle that need to be considered. The taxes and money that Obama’s plan would cost would always be expensive, but we wouldn’t care anywhere near as much (well, I wouldn’t anyway) if we still had Clinton’s surplus rather than Bush’s war deficit. It’s hard to make the financial case for spending any money when all you’ve got left in the house is a credit card with no limit and the jar of pennies and quarters left from coffee money.
Still, I wish we hadn’t spent the money on the billion dollar beer that is the war in Iraq. The hangover is wicked. The war in Afghanistan would still be difficult to swallow for peaceniks like me, but at least I’d feel like we were in the right country, looking for people that do exist rather than bombs that don’t. Furthermore, families wouldn’t be apart for years with no end in sight. Vets wouldn’t be so tired by now, and maybe we’d have what it takes to find Bin Laden.
In the rest of the world, weather’s been weird, reality TV seems to rule and Michael Jackson died. The list of people I have never heard of continues to grow and they only have first names like I should know who they are when the magazine at the checkout talks about them. I don’t know who they are. I don’t want to know who they are. I could care less about the “reality” that is their lives. The fact that they get some huge amount of dollars and cameras following them around doesn’t make them interesting or decent or leadership material. It makes them rich and famous. Most of the people I care about are struggling and unknown. I like them better. (I have rediscovered a friend who might be almost-rich and almost-famous this past year. Even he’s still paying his dues. And he’s for single-payer health insurance and against bad journalism.)
So what does 2010 bring to us? I have no clue. We’re still way too much in chaos. I think things are getting better, but I’m not sure how much better they’ll get. It would also be nice if talented people ran the arts and we could all afford to go to see them. I’d like to see good people be famous, but I’m not expecting that.
Here’s what I do expect: time, politics, and things happening. I expect 365 days in the next year. I could be wrong about that, but it is what I’m expecting. I expect politics to happen, but I hope politicians don’t have to be so nasty to each other. After that, events will happen that nobody will see coming. People will be die, people will be born. And in the great mish-mash that is our lives, maybe we’ll become a nation of people that mostly like each other. That would be nice. A world where that was the case wouldn’t be bad either.
Correction: My friend Joe Roberts pointed out that only 2 of the “big 3” automakers got bailed out (Ford not needing it). Good for Ford. Good for us.
So, here’s to 2010! 2009 didn’t totally suck.
P.S. My first reference to Prophetess Gerry Claytor this year: I expect she’ll be working hard in Bridgeport once again. Happy New Year to all of the people like Gerry who make my world a better place. Unhappy New Year to the ones who make people like her work so hard.