A Prophecy for the Coming Decade
It's a whole new decade, I hear.
I'm a little reticent about proclaiming this unequivocally. The scars have barely healed from all that tongue-lashing we got ten years ago from number-conscious folks who insisted that, properly speaking, the new millennium would not kick over until 2001. Anyone who thought otherwise was "innumerate." I've heard nothing from those folks this time around. Maybe they're all busy studying for a math test.
Anyway, we can be fairly certain that some kind of new era is upon us because of the wealth of prophesies being bandied about as to what dire fate awaits us in what, I foresee, we are destined to call the Teens. These prophesies run the gamut. The U.S. will become a Marxist dictatorship and an armed citizenry will rise in angry rebellion. China will run out of water. The Large Hadron Collider "may find SUSY but almost certainly the Higgs boson." The Rapture (which has been imminent for nearly two thousand years) will coincide with the end of the Mayan calendar and the appearance of an alien mothership over Branson, Missouri. "The late Mother Teresa, accompanied by the late George Carlin, will appear to Father Guido Sarducci." And best of all — from no less an authority than Bob Mondello of National Public Radio — the Teens will bring us a new wave of movie musicals.
I see you out there, jaded readers, shaking your heads cynically over all this. But some of these predictions must come true, if only by virtue of the law of averages. I will even venture to place a bet or two of my own.
I've played the prophecy game before, and I didn't do too badly. It was back in 2000, a few months before the presidential election. I used to write a biweekly column in our local newspaper, The Camden Herald, which has since been absorbed by an energetic, homegrown new media enterprise. Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!
Some are born prophets; some achieve prophecy by luck or brilliance. I had prophecy thrust upon me by all my liberal friends who — out of sheer moral purity, I suppose — seemed intent on bringing about the end of the world by voting for Ralph Nader. I foresaw even then, with the startling clarity of over-the-counter reading glasses, that nothing good would come of this.
"By withholding their votes from Al Gore, an ecologically minded Democrat," I wrote in April of that year, "my friends and their Green allies might usher in a government full of right-wing extremists who would scrap the Kyoto Accord, dismantle environmental regulations, throw tax breaks at the wealthy and create a society divided sharply by religion and class."
Admittedly, it can be seen in retrospect that I erred on the side of optimism. I utterly failed to anticipate 9/11 and the subsequent assault on civil liberties, the right of habeas corpus, the Geneva Convention, and the prohibition of torture. Call me Pollyanna. But I got some of it right.
Drum roll, please. A vision has come to me of the decade ahead, and I will reveal it here, to the readers of Down East, before the End Times™ are upon us.
Here you go, then: The Teens will not be such a big deal.
Now, I can understand your natural impulse to stone me. I have it on good authority that a prophet hath no honor in his own country, and Maine is definitely my country. My planet, even. And I'm aware, more or less, of the immense and seemingly intractable problems that lie before us, starting with global climate change and dysfunctional government, running all the way down to the closing of the village store and the inevitable death of my ancient Saab. I don't foresee an immediate solution to any of these things — and trust me, if I did, I would leap for it.
I don't see the end of the world, either. I think we were much worse off, morally and practically, five years ago than we will be five years hence. I have a good deal of faith in the rising generation — and as a father and a high-school teacher, I get a close look at this generation every day. I believe that, where we have failed, these new Americans will begin, albeit slowly at first, to succeed.
This will not be a dramatic thing. It won't resemble the way the nightmarish 1940s, a decade of war and Holocaust, were succeeded by the hopeful, prosperous and (mostly) peaceful 1950s. It will be more like a turning of the tide — that doubtful hour when mighty forces are gripped in rough equilibrium, yielding at last to a perceptible drift and then an irresistible flood in the opposite direction.
That's as specific as I can get with these cheap reading glasses. Just remember you heard it here first.