Tuesday December 31, 2019
To a Kidney Stone of a Decade
This will be my last post of the 2010s. My first post of the 2010s, on Jan. 1 2010, 8:44 AM, was short:
Bushed: The word I'd use to sum up the decade. I'm bushed, you‘re bushed, we’ve all been Bushed—the country and the world. We need a new starting line. Hey, here comes one now.
Everyone is trying to fathom what the hell we just went through. Yesterday, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich tweeted, “I don't know about you, but I'm ready to put this anti-democracy decade to rest. It began January 21, 2010 with Citizens United and ends with Donald Trump in the White House.” Over the weekend, Michiko Kakutani wrote an Op-Ed in the Times, “The 2010s Were the End of Normal,” in which she quotes others quoting Yeats (“The centre cannot hold”) and Auden (“Waves of anger and fear...”).
I, too, have been thinking Auden and “September 1, 1939,” but I‘ve been focusing on the “low, dishonest decade” part. That’s where we are. The propagandists won; they got away with it. Meanwhile, the legit press still offers both sides even if one side is a known lie. Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov, who lived under Soviet lies, is trying to school us on this: “Stop giving equal times to lies,” he said last week on CNN. He said the legit press' “outdated sense of fairness is killing our democracy.” He's not wrong.
What a decade. Who knew a social media platform would help upend democracy—and its CEO wouldn't care? Who knew we'd elect, as president of the United States(!), a fatuous, Mussolini-ish real estate moron, who appears to have survived bankruptcy with loans floated from Russian oligarchs, and who, as president, has enraged allies, embraced dictators, taunted the powerless with third-grade insults, paid for the silence of porn stars, obstructed justice, obstructed Congress, ignored the rule of law, lied every day and in every way, and has repeatedly asked foreign governments, either vocally (Russia, China), or secretly (Ukraine), to interfere in American elections? And yet he's never fallen below a 35% approval rating? Who knew Nazis would ever be a thing again? And on American soil?
More than Yeats, though, more than Auden, I think of Trudeau. As a kid we owned “The Doonesbury Chronicles,” the big history of the “Doonesbury” daily comic strip through the 1970s; and on Dec. 7, 1979, he published the strip below. I think I read it before I knew what a kidney stone was:
Who helped in the 2010s? Beyond the personal? A few names: Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Mulaney, Joe Posnanski, Jane Mayer, John Stewart, Jill Lepore, Rick Perlstein, Kumail Nanjiani, Jacques Audiard, Martin Scorsese, Marion Cotillard, Zhou Xun, and the 2014-15 Kansas City Royals. Also the New York Yankees—for being the first New York Yankees team in 100 years to not win a pennant in a calendar decade. Bless you, boys.
Mike Doonesbury was right about disco, so maybe the same will be true for a few of this decade's villains: they, too, shall pass. One can hope. Toot toot, beep beep.