Facing the Next Decade
Tomorrow evening is New Year’s Eve – well, the secular one anyway – and I find it hard to believe that on it we will be welcoming in the second decade of the 21st century.
It seems like only yesterday that we were living in anticipation and dread of Y2K; both the advent of the 21st century and the prophesied melt down of everything computer in the world. Ironically, as we were filled with dread of the potential demise of our cyber-centered universe, I could not help be ponder how liberating that could be. For I am one of those folks who is convinced that while technology has contributed much to our lives, even more has it enslaved us. I remember when the hype was that the technological revolution would liberate us; provide us with more free time and leisure. Well, tell that to the person who each morning opens their email to be greeted by 100 or more messages, some easily deletable but most expecting an instantaneous response – don’t think! just write! And then, of course, there are our cell phones. When I was growing up – in the days of rotary dial corded phones – we did not even have answering machines, nevertheless cell phone. That is, except for Dick Tracy with his two-way wrist radio – “Calling Dick Tracy! Calling Dick Tracy!” If someone called and you were not home, they would just have to call back later, or not. Now they can call you anywhere, anytime. “Hello? Where are you? You sound strange.” “Maybe that is because I am in Phoenix, in a restaurant, in the bathroom!” No escape. We are prisoners. And you wonder why in the secret recesses of my heart I carried the smallest hope that all that Y2K jabber was more than mere hype?
It seems like only yesterday we welcomed the 2000’s. I remember so very well being at a house party with my children. As midnight was approaching, we all left the house and walked to a nearby park which provided an excellent vantage point for the public fireworks which ushered in the new century. And they were magnificent. As I stood there, in the midwestern winter cold, with the display lighting up the night sky, I could not help but gaze upon my children and wonder whether or not they appreciated the import of the moment. For here we were, parents and children together, celebrating a moment which none of us would ever live to see again; the start of a new century. That would be the privilege of my grandchildren and great grandchildren; their children and grandchildren. And I cannot even begin to attempt to calculate how many generations it will be before parents and children can once again stand together to welcome a new milennia.
How time has flown! For we turn around and we are already entering yet another decade. How I pray that we make far better use of our time in this coming decade than we did in the last.
O how we approached the 21st century with such hopes and dreams! What promise it held for us! The media was filled with reports featuring the various visions of the future held by both people of note and the man or woman on the street, and they all were positive. Yet when I think back on these past 10 years, it pains me to consider how we have failed to live up to those visions, those promises, those hopes. It pains me to consider how dark and dismal a decade was this first decade of this new century. A bloody one, indeed, with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with genocide in Darfur, with not one but four separate grisly conflicts between the Israelis and their adversaries, the Palestinians and Hezbollah – the Second Intifada, the invasion of the West Bank, the Lebanon War, and the Gaza War. There has been brutal terrorism galore, the most agonizing incident of which, at least of us Americans, was 9-11. Of course, that was not the only one. Trains have been blown up, suicide bomber have struck both inside and outside of Israel, missile and mortar attacks on civilian settlements in southern Israel, Mumbai. The list is too long and too painful to recount in its entirety.
Nor was armed conflict this decade’s only ill. Hunger remains a rampant disease afflicting our planet. The number of its victims continues to grow rather than diminish. As I write these words, our economy – our global economy – has seriously faltered. Unemployment in our own great country is disgracefully high. My wife was without a full time job for 13 months. I thank God she finally found one she likes. Far too many of her fellow Americans have not been nearly as fortunate. As if these things were not bad enough, blind hatred has once again reared its ugly head in our land. Hate groups are on the rise, spreading their bile about people of color, undocumented immigrants, and of course, Jews. Even worse – yes, even worse – there are far too many who mask their prejudice in the sanctimonious cloak of religion. These people profess to adhere to a faith doctrine of love while at the same time they take every opportunity to attack and degrade their fellow human beings simply because they do not share their sexual orientation. They solemnly proclaim that they stand four square against any form of discrimination but that they also stand four square against any attempt to grant equal rights to those with a same sex orientation. They wave their bibles as if those sacred texts were their personal license to persecute others.
One could even wonder whether or not God was intent upon crushing the new century’s promise of hope. Tsunami, Katrina, Global Warming. Enough said.
But ten years does not a century make. We still have another ninety with which to work. We still can make the 21st century the greatest century for humankind. But whether or not that comes to fruition is entirely within our own hands. It is up to us to decide to make this the century of peace rather than of war; of prosperity rather than of poverty; of dignity rather than of degradation; of hope rather than of heartache.
We may have squandered the first decade but if we so choose, the dream can begin now. May this second decade usher in all the good we have longed for in this new century.
Happy New Year, one and all!