The Arabs have a proverb: All sunshine makes a desert

It’s only natural when the New Year comes to start to think of all things new and yet to come.

Instead I think, “Gosh, 1999 was 10 years ago, wasn’t it?”

The thought just won’t fit inside my head. Somehow the year 2000 still seems somewhere up ahead. Sometimes I worry I’ll be spending the rest of my life trying to get back to a place behind me, behind us, forever gone.

The cutoffs are so arbitrary, but decades really do have prevailing moods. We can say, for instance, the ’20s roared. Not for everybody and not the whole time, but compared to the ’10s and ’30s, definitely.

Well, the ’90s were just sunny. All sunshine and no storm clouds. All smiles and no worries. All exuberance and no restraint. No reason for it.

At long last, we beat the Soviets. Heck, we beat them right out of existence. If we ever had to go to war again, it’d be like Desert Storm: we’d just sweep all our problems aside and ride to victory. The economy was booming, new technology was coming that was making everyone more productive and pretty quick would solve everything, and life was going to be peachy.

It was the Roaring ’20s all over again, except with a louder roar and more stuff prohibited. But who really minded when things were so sunny?

My niece was born last year. Well, 2007. (Time flies, eh?) So obviously, she missed out on all that. She probably won’t even understand 9/11 during its 10th anniversary. The world she’ll grow up in is a worrisome and uncertain place. Her only consolation will be that she’s known no other.

There’s a lot of worry about another Great Depression, people watch cheap television and browse the Internet instead of going to movies and sporting events. Where people grow obese on cheap, unhealthy fast food instead of waiting in soup lines. Suicide, divorce, alcoholism and pessimism always follow closely with prolonged recessions. Marriages, birth rates, general satisfaction? Not so much.

If America gets pulled off the world stage, who knows what will spring up in its absence and in the place of totalitarianism? If America stays active, who knows what we’ll be up to and the effect it’ll have?

Sooner can a man tell the wind which way to blow than tell the future what to be.

Dark clouds hang on the horizon, and who knows which way they’ll go or what they’ll have in them?

The ’00s stole my sunshine, and they oughtn’t have.

But I’m a young single male. I don’t own much or have many responsibilities. Books are cheap and library cards cheaper. I’m in a position to weather a storm better than most. I’ll get by. But my niece? What of her and those like her unlucky enough to be born in a time after sunshine?

The Arabs have a proverb a West Texas rancher might have said: “All sunshine makes a desert.”

Looking at myself and my generation, I fear that’s right. We’re a group with no ambition and no urgency and no responsibility, even when we do. If you’re born in sunshine with no expectation of anything different or any sacrifices required, what can you grow into? I worry the answer is “not much.”

As Orson Welles said: “In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love — they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

And the Swiss didn’t even really make the cuckoo clock.

If 2009 keeps raining, or pouring, I’ll keep missing the ’90s, but I’ll also keep hoping it’s watering a forest we can’t see right now.

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