By MARSHA MERCER
A New Year’s message from the president on vacation:
“First of all, I wish everybody a Happy New Year. (The new year) is going to be a great year for America. And we will continue to pursue our mission in fighting terror. We'll work hard to make sure our economy rebounds. But most of all, the nation will continue to embrace the culture of compassion…”
It’s only a matter of time before we get Osama bin Laden, the president said. In the new year, we’ll make sure the health-care system works and people will get good jobs.
That was President George W. Bush in Crawford, Tex., on Dec. 31, 2001.
No wonder most Americans believe the 2000s were a bust.
The decade was a “long, hard slog” and not only, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld predicted in 2003, in Afghanistan and Iraq. As we celebrate a new year and begin a new decade, war, terrorism and a troubled economy remain our toughest problems.
We just had a terrorist incident in which the nation’s homeland security system “failed miserably,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano conceded. She first tried to say the system worked fine.
Only the quick-thinking and courageous passengers and crew of Northwest Flight 253 thwarted the alleged plan of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up the Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day. Had the heroes not acted, the 23-year-old Nigerian extremist could have succeeded in killing more than 200 innocents. Despite being on a terrorist watch list, Abdulmuttallab was able to board the flight with explosives sewn in his pants.
The economy seems to be slowly recovering from an historic recession, but millions remain unemployed and millions have lost their homes. As for the culture of compassion Bush lauded, it’s hard to see it in the fog of tea parties and hate talk.
This year started with soaring optimism as peaceful throngs filled the nation’s capital for the inauguration. President Barack Obama promised to bring change to Washington, but the tone has gotten worse. He’s inching ahead on his signature issue, health-care reform, but most people say they no longer want it.
As we enter 2010, crankiness reigns. Only about one person in four has a positive impression of the last decade, according to a Pew Research Center survey taken a few weeks ago. Asked what word best describes the 2000s, people said “downhill,” along with poor, decline, chaotic, disaster, scary and depressing.
But wait. All is not lost. Here’s a glimmer of, uh, hope amid the gloom. We aren’t giving up. The resilience of the American people is showing through.
Nearly six in 10 Americans believe the next decade will be better, the Pew survey found.
People like some of the technological and social changes of the 00s. They see cell phones, e-mail and the Internet as changes for the better. They approve of the country’s increasing racial and ethnic diversity.
Curiously, although reality TV shows are very popular, more than 60 percent say reality TV is the decade’s biggest social change for the worse.
Here’s something else to be glad about. The FBI reports that violent crime is down. Preliminary figures indicate that murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault declined about 4 percent nationwide from January to June of this year from a year earlier. Despite the recession, property crimes – burglary, theft and motor vehicle thefts – were down 6 percent nationally.
Some analysts say the decline may be because the population is aging, and oldsters commit fewer crimes. In Washington, D.C., where the murder rate is at a 45-year low, the chief of police said the police are getting more tips by text message, so they’re able to investigate and solve crimes more quickly.
So, be glad that we’re finished with the dismal decade, a.k.a. the awful aughts. We’re all getting older, and we have cell phones. Happy New Year.
© 2009 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.