So here we are, at the end of a craptacular decade whose ten thousand humiliations I do not need to recount at any length. So (perhaps in a moment of weakness) I find myself asking how it could have been different -- namely, would it have been any better if Al Gore had won in 2000? In some ways, yes: 9.11 wouldn't have happened, as Mr. Gore would no doubt have carried on with Mr. Clinton's obsession with al-Qaeda. We would have had a slightly better press climate, i.e. one which would have treated Mr. Santorum's man-on-dog-related comments as the ravings of a lunatic, rather than the very serious opinion of a very serious man. But the dot-com bubble still would have burst, the right-wing Democrats in the Senate would have controlled economic policy, the "liberal" media still would have hated on Mr. Gore, and I think Mr. Bush would eventually have ascended to power in 2004, and who would have blamed him if Katrina had arrived on time seven short months later? With goodwill-toward-Bush built, Mr. Bush could have rammed an invasion of Iraq through Congress in 2006 far more easily (and with less fearmongering) than he did in 2002, and Hillary Clinton would have played Bob Dole to his Bill Clinton in 2008. And we wouldn't be having this conversation right now, because we'd still have George W. Bush.
But even if Mr. Gore had somehow managed to fix the economy, get himself re-elected, prevent an invasion of Iraq, and find a historic Northeastern shift against Republicans at his back in 2006, would we, as a nation and as a culture, be better off? I don't think so. I think the elites would have drifted just as far rightward, and the vast majority of citizens not drifting rightward would have felt far more powerless than they've felt over the last ten years -- the rightward shift might even have happened under the radar of the many left-wing blogs that have saved our collective posterior. Instead of the "liberal" media and the Republican Party being virtually alone in moving the mainstream rightward, as they are now, more of us might be complicit. Possibly I'm not giving folks enough credit, but certainly I know I'd be just as muddle-headed a thinker as I was during the 1990s, when I wasn't participating in politics as much as my conscience commanded.
Now, obviously, I'd prefer to have remained a benighted soul if it would have saved the lives of thousands of American soldiers and millions of Iraqi and Afghan civilians. But clearly that was not the cosmic plan. The cosmic plan seems to have called for the annihilation of relatively powerless millions this decade in order to enrich the coffers of George W. Bush's corporate cronies, so that the rest of us, who do have power and who can take action, could be inspired and/or shamed into more fully becoming our better selves. Again, I'm not thankful for anyone's death or suffering, especially at the hands of Halliburton, but I also know that because of these trials I've never felt more sure of who I am and who I'm meant to be, and I also know I've never loved my fellow Americans more than I have over the last decade, so superior has their wisdom obviously been to the thugs and idiots in our elite classes. The "liberal" media may chase after the emptiest wagons in our political discourse (look, Bill O'Reilly says there's a war on Christmas! Ann Coulter says liberalism is a religion! Did Obama bow too deeply to the Japanese Emperor?), but their folly does not reflect at all on the wisdom of Americans as a whole. The vote may be a fairly imprecise tool, but I don't think Republicans went from 55 Senators to 40 in under three calendar years because Americans are as dumb or malicious as their corporate, social, and economic elites obviously are.
So, because I didn't create this world, and because I believe that, with enough patience and work, we can wring goodness and justice even from the most odious circumstances, I raise a toast to this soon-to-be-gone decade, and the multitudinous lessons it taught us. And I summarily demand that this decade get the fuck out of my way, because this coming decade is mine, mine and yours and yours and yours. This coming decade does not belong to the corporatists, the fearmongers, the pedants, the cowards, the nativists, the religious extremists, and all their thugs. This coming decade belongs to those of us who do the right things in the right way. This decade belongs to those of us who reduce our dependence on corporate power, who reduce our impact on the environment we all share, who buy and sell items in a way that doesn't hurt the downtrodden, who build a new infrastructure based on renewable sources of power, who force our government to give its citizens the help and protection we deserve as its owners. This decade belongs to those of us who see different people as people and not vessels of evil, who never feel ashamed of making someone else feel ashamed if they deserve it, who commit to our communities, and to our democracy, absolutely -- to those of us, in short, who do what is right regardless of whether it is expedient, or even pleasurable.
This coming decade is our decade. I guarantee it.