Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ten Long Years

In many ways, it's been more of the same for Flint over the past decade. But at the risk of appearing totally unobservant after being sequestered in the bubble of the San Francisco Bay Area for almost 20 years, it took an email from my friend Michael G. to realize just how momentous the past ten years has been for the country.
"WTF has been going on the last decade? I always thought it would be interesting if I was cast the lot of living in a revolutionary time — an amusing idea given that I was born in Iran in the middle of a revolution. I don't know what the last 10 years have been though because it doesn't 'feel' like a revolution."
But then Michael referenced a list by Marc Cooper of the USC Annenberg School that puts things in perspective. This wasn't just a horrible decade; it was revolutionary:
1. The unconventional election process of 2000
2. The attack on the
Twin Towers, September 11, 2001
3. The
invasion of Afghanistan, 2001
4. The
invasion of Iraq, 2003
5. The introduction of torture techniques as official American policy
6. The unprecedented expansion of executive power
Hurricane Katrina
8. The election of Barack Obama
9. The global financial crisis of 2008-2009
10. The media revolution
Writing in New York Magazine, Adam Sternbergh gets a little more specific on how things have changed during the aughts:

"To travel back in time to 1999, you have to start by shedding a few things, as though you’re going through airport security. No iPod. No smartphone. No YouTube. No Facebook. No Twitter. In 1999, the Internet was shiny-new and just out of the box, and we still believed that its greatest utility was to deliver dog food to our door and packs of gum and cigarettes to us by hand. We were just starting to figure out that the new search site Google, which had launched in 1998, might prove useful for something. We couldn’t yet peek 24/7 through our neighbor’s digital windows. We knew the word friend but not the word unfriend.

"We were excited about the new century, but also anxious. On April 20, 1999, Columbine happened, a small-town tragedy that became shorthand for everyone’s particular millennial fear: guns, bullies, godlessness, video games. Across the country, in Washington, Bill Clinton presided over the final days of what The Onion later called “our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity,” even as Zippergate or Monicagate—we never did settle on a name—dragged on toward its first anniversary. Like any 1-year-old, it was proving to be equal parts tiresome and transfixing. On March 3, 1999, 70 million Americans watched Monica Lewinsky interviewed by Barbara Walters, almost exactly the same number that watched the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Twenty-six days later, on March 29, the Dow closed above 10,000 for the first time in history. On May 3, the Dow closed above 11,000 for the first time in history. In terms of markets, and money, everything was expanding and hopeful. We could see our bloated reflections in the golden skin of the dot-com bubble."
But Frank Rich at The New York Times may sum it up best. This was the decade we were all played for suckers:
"As we say farewell to a dreadful year and decade, this much we can agree upon: The person of the year is not Ben Bernanke, no matter how insistently Time magazine tries to hype him into its pantheon. The Fed chairman was just as big a schnook as every other magical thinker in Washington and on Wall Street who believed that housing prices would go up in perpetuity to support an economy leveraged past the hilt. Unlike most of the others, it was Bernanke’s job to be ahead of the curve. Yet as recently as June of last year he could be found minimizing the possibility of a substantial economic downturn. And now we’re supposed to applaud him for putting his finger in the dike after disaster struck? This is defining American leadership down.

"If there’s been a consistent narrative to this year and every other in this decade, it’s that most of us, Bernanke included, have been so easily bamboozled. The men who played us for suckers, whether at Citigroup or Fannie Mae, at the White House or Ted Haggard’s megachurch, are the real movers and shakers of this century’s history so far. That’s why the obvious person of the year is Tiger Woods. His sham beatific image, questioned by almost no one until it collapsed, is nothing if not the farcical reductio ad absurdum of the decade’s flimflams, from the cancerous (the subprime mortgage) to the inane (balloon boy)."


  1. A revolution has taken place, but it may not feel like it because the huge changes haven't exactly been moving in the same direction. Bush's election and all the chicanery that entailed is so different from Obama's momentous election that they seem to almost cancel each other out, yet they were both profound for very different reasons.

  2. Lets not forget about the history making stock swindle that took place in the final years of this decade. With the billions involved, dollars that is, it probably totals out every scam, robbery and swindle that ever took place in the history of this country. No fair counting the military industial complex though, it was a legal theft....

  3. Friendly note to anonymous, whose post was rejected for the swearing not the content...when I quote someone — in this case Marc Cooper — it doesn't necessarily mean I endorse everything he says. That's the purpose of quotes. They let you convey what other people think about an issue. So feel free to track down Marc Cooper and let him know how you feel. And feel free to send another comment to Flint Expats, minus the swearing, and I'll be happy to post it. Thanks.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at