Here's to the end of a fraught decade

Will the next be any better?

By Daniel A. Brown
Posted 1/10/20

Not only is 2019 over but so is the decade of the 2010s. It was not a very good one for either the United States or the world as a whole. Its dominant themes were the vast destruction (and denial of) global climate change, American mass shootings, the worldwide refugee-immigrant crisis and the retreat of democracy before the rule of corrupt strongmen. I'm sure readers can add to this list and I wouldn't deny them the opportunity.

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Here's to the end of a fraught decade

Will the next be any better?

Posted

Not only is 2019 over but so is the decade of the 2010s. It was not a very good one for either the United States or the world as a whole. Its dominant themes were the vast destruction (and denial of) global climate change, American mass shootings, the worldwide refugee-immigrant crisis and the retreat of democracy before the rule of corrupt strongmen. I'm sure readers can add to this list and I wouldn't deny them the opportunity.

The events that define a decade rarely occur during the first year. The 1940s began for Americans when Pearl Harbor was attacked and the 2000s truly went into effect on September 11, 2001. Our new decade and its pervading theme might present itself either next week or within a few years. Either way, the 2020s are hinting to be a decade most of us will never forget. This may or may not be good thing depending on one's perspective.

The doomsayers are adamant that unless we address global warming within the next few years, the human race is doomed. Unfortunately, we're already past the point to avert it and until we invent something to replace the internal combustion engine and jet engines, we're stuck with our current modes of transportation. It would be nice if all those young, smart techies out there would invent a cheap, mass-produced alternative instead of another worthless cellphone app. Kit Carson, however, traversed the United States from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., and back several times on a mule, so all is not lost.

Mass shootings are now as American as apple pie and since none of our elected officials have the guts to defy the National Rifle Association, they will continue.

The only reason we have a crisis of immigrants and refugees is because they are fleeing failed states. Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Libya and Syria used to be viable nations. Now they are anarchic wastelands, ruled by gangs and cartels. If Trump's immigrant-hating supporters lived there, they'd flee, too.

Last, we seem to have slipped into a new Dark Age of authoritarian leaders who hate democracy and rule only to line their own pockets and boost their power-crazed egos. Donald Trump here in the United States, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Narendra Modi from India, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and Boris Johnson in England. Despite many being democratically elected, they all come from the same corrupt mold. Their goal is to lead their countries backward, fueled by racism, hatred, division and isolation.

The question for us is will America go over the edge in the 2020s?

I felt the same way a half-century ago. In 1970, it looked to me as though the United States was about to self-destruct into a choice of several civil wars. Young against old. Black against white. Rich against poor, pro- versus anti-war. There seemed to be no compromise or middle ground. The Kent State massacre demonstrated that our government was willing to murder its own children and a poll taken right after showed that a majority of Americans approved.

Our nation was polarized beyond what it is now. It is not surprising that in 1970, hundreds of thousands of young Americans, including myself, left their schools, their homes and their families in a huge migration - a continental game of musical chairs. These idealistic youths thought that by turning their back on what was perceived as a failed society, they would create a brave new alternative world. They didn't - not completely. But the tumult of the '60s scared Americans enough to retreat into the frivolous Sex, Drugs and Disco '70s. At least we got rid of a criminal president.

As the 2020s begin, the United States is once again at a watershed moment. Will it continue into the darkness of hate, bigotry and fear and follow leaders who are heading us into an abyss? Or will the pendulum swing back toward more enlightened and progressive ways of living? Maybe the latter is already happening because positive news rarely makes for enticing headlines.

Globally, the coming decade will be decisive as to whether the human race is a failed species, unable to care for itself, or if we choose, in fact, to rise to the better angels of our nature.

Daniel A. Brown is a resident of Taos County.

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