Sunday, December 29, 2019

The ’10s? The Teens? Decade defies labels

   My rule of thumb at the paper, when asked to do something, is to always say Yes, unless I can't do it. Then I decline. Because I like to be useful, and have learned that the topics I'm drawn into are typically subjects I might not otherwise tackle. So periodically I've been working on our new, very successful special magazines and wrappers, happily writing about subjects from driving exotic cars to Illinois manufacturing.
    In Sunday's section wrapping the front page, I was asked to parse the decade that has just gone by, with emphasis on the Obama/Trump dichotomy. That I did, more in sorrow than in anger. 

     It says something about both the dominance of social media and the fading iconography of eras that I didn’t realize a new decade is upon us until I saw a meme on Facebook at Halloween.
     “Just a friendly reminder,” it announced, above four slim women in flapper dresses, “The ’20s start in 60 days.”
     Right. They do, don’t they? Those 60 days have dwindled to a handful. Then it’ll be the ’20s, again. Will they roar? The last ’20s sure did, a growl of prosperity and sexual liberation and music so loud that we still remember it all a century later. Followed by the grim ’30s. The wartime ’40s ...
     In the 21st century, that pattern broke. What do we even call the decade years that just expired? “The Teens?” I never did, and I lived through every minute, so far. MSNBC is going with “Decade of Disruption,” which might be true — Amazon and China both muscling aside old powerhouses, America and Britain stumbling badly — but that won’t be flying off anybody’s lips.
     And the 10 years before that? “The Aughts?” Even worse. And what was the flavor of the ’00s? The Post-9/11 Decade? Maybe. But even then, nowhere near the instant emotional impact of “The ’50s” or, the ultimate, “The ’60s.”
     Then again, the period between 2010 and 2019 was particularly schizophrenic, given that about halfway through it Barack Obama, a most careful, reserved and thoughtful president, did his mic drop and ambled out of public life, exiting stage left. Immediately replaced by Donald Trump and his parade of clown cars, tripping over themselves and into power from stage right, calliope at full wheeze, ushering in what can only be described as perpetual pandemonium.
     What will history call that decade? “The Troublesome Teens?” America is sorta old for a stormy adolescence at this point. “The Trump Triumph?” Could be. “The Pre-War Years?” Let’s hope not.

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  1. I didn't have to reflect on the racism exhibited in the contrast between President Obama and The Cowardly Liar. A while ago, talking with my racist cousin, I remarked sarcastically about his presidents eloquence. His reply was a schoolyard like version of "Oh yeah, Obama is soooo eloquent". When you cannot recognize the obvious, better to remain silent rather than be seen a fool. Of course Drumpf is devoid of shame and seems to be an antidote to it for his followers as well.

  2. I'm not crazy about my morning paper filled with these historical visitations, but you did make some lemonade out of your assigned lemon.


  3. “The Teens?” Nope. "The Twenty-Tens?" Better. And the 10 years before that? “The Aughts?” Nah."The Oh-Ohs?" In hindsight, it would have to be more like the "Uh-Ohs"...but my favorite is Rachel Maddow's "The Two-Thousandsies."

    If we're, really really unlucky,we've just lived through the Fifties in...Eighteen-Fifties. Orange Moonface is James Buchanan, as he stumbles, bumbles, and fumbles until we lurch into Civil War Version 2.0...which won't be a video game. Can Joe Biden be another Lincoln? Highly unlikely, but he might just end up being a Ford.

    America is too old for adolescence, but maybe "The Troublesome Teens" were the beginning of our geezerhood, decline, and eventual demise. “The Pre-War Years?” Possibly. Depending on the size and scope of the war, of course, and assuming that anybody's still around to label the pieces they're picking up.

    But hey, at least the Twenties aren't going to bring us Prohibition. Just the opposite. The growth (ouch) of the "We B Weed" chain of drug stores...and maybe, in another decade or two, the proliferating of those Pyschedelphia outlets that mushroomed everywhere. (Did I really write that? Sorry. Too good to resist...)

    Happy new decade, Mr. S. It might not end up being be the last, but it could easily be MY last. Bill, Hillary, and Donnie are are all my cohorts, agewise. We're what the media likes to call "aging Boomers"--which just means OLD.

    1. Old, but not quite dead. As I approach that period, I’m beginning to wonder how it feels to be left with the solitary distinction of not having died yet.


    2. A white-bearded centenarian in one of my wife's yellowing Nancy Drew books, upon being asked the reason for his longevity, laughs sarcastically and replies: "The only reason one lives to be a hundred is because one has not died before."

    3. Grizz, I remember that ND story. The Sign of the Twisted Candles, read it as a kid.

    4. Bingo. First Nancy Drew I ever read. Got it from an aunt and uncle at age seven. My wife owns every one of the "Blue Nancys"--the original blue hardcover volumes with the dust jackets--all 38 titles.

      Some are originals, and some were re-released later on. The yellowed pages of the volumes from the mid-Forties are as fragile as the Dead Sea Scrolls, because of the shortage of high-quality paper for civilian use during World War II. We also own a framed 1933 dust jacket from an original copy of "The Twisted Candles."

  4. No matter what you call 2xxx it doesn't sound right to me. Being born in the middle of the 1900s any year starting with 2 just seems weird. It's been 20 years and I'm still not used to it. Talk about being stuck in neutral.


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