WILSON: A history lesson: A decade of ‘what just happened?’

Published 9:04 am Saturday, September 12, 2020

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The decade of the 2000s had a rough start. To begin with, at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 1999, the entire world was expected to be upturned by the anxiously anticipated disaster known as Y2K — brought about by computers that would not be able to recognize the date of 01/01/00. As it turned out, nothing happened.

On Jan. 1st, all of the breathless news reporters just looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and realized this was the worst news story since Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vault on live TV (for those of you too young to recognize this reference — look it up).

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the 2000s was coming up with a moniker to best depict the decade. Previous decades were known by their last two digits (‘90s, ‘80s, ‘70s, etc.), but the first decade of the new Millennium struggled with an identity crisis. In the first decade of the 20th Century, folks referred to the years as “Aught 1” (1901), “Aught 2” (1902), etc. (etcetera — just in case you didn’t know). Unfortunately, 100 years later, that term had vanished from the American-English lexicon. Folks were perplexed — they did not know how to refer to each year. Was 2001 “Two Thousand and One,” “01,” or just plain “1?” No one knew for sure because there was no international commission tasked with making that decision for all of the rest of us — perhaps they thought Y2K was going to wipe us all out, so why bother?

By the 2000s, the internet had already been around for a couple of decades and was poised to take over the world as the prime method of communicating. A merger between America Online (at that time, the largest internet provider in the world) and Time-Warner was expected to be the biggest thing since Al Gore. However, the entire hub-bub fizzled and, nowadays, most people think AOL is a Socialist member of Congress from someplace in New York.

Social networking sites began to take over our lives. Friendster (2003), Myspace (2004), Facebook (2006) and Twitter (2006) started out — with Friendster and Myspace falling onto the trash heap of history and Facebook and Twitter assuming the role of total world domination. These two sites have single-handedly contributed to the accepted use of swear words as a formal means of communicating — and people of absolutely no importance proclaiming their opinion is more important than anyone else’s.

The 2000s were also notable for elevating people of no true significance to a position of “being famous for being famous.” For instance, Paris Hilton became known for her hairclips, tiny dog, and sex-tape video. Likewise, incredibly unimportant people, such as a family of Kardashians, came to rule television, fashion, and the definition of just how large a derriere should be.

Also, during this decade, the World of Warcraft came upon the scene — and an entire generation of Gamers have yet to emerge from their parent’s basements. Some of their parents don’t even realize they are still down there.

Two huge financial crises occurred during the first decade of the new millennium — the dot-com bubble burst in 2001 and the housing bubble exploded in 2007. Many people felt the solution to such economic disasters was to eliminate the term “bubble” from financial terms (much like “aught” was eliminated from numerical terms) — or was that just me?

The most impactful event of the entire decade happened on Sept. 11, 2001, when we endured the worst attack on American soil. It was devastating! However, it brought Americans together in a national harmony that had not been felt since Dec. 7, 1941. Flags were waived, political differences were set aside, and the people of the United States came together as one powerful voice.

Calls were made to “Never Forget,” and I, for one, expected the memory of that day to remain with us, for a very long time. Unfortunately, just two decades later, an elected member of Congress (CONGRESS for cryin’-out-loud!) dismissed the entire event as “Some people did some things.” That honked off a bunch of folks (myself, included).

It was a very strange decade. By 2010, people were looking around, scratching their heads and asking each other, “What just happened?”