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Y2K and Today Some Belated Thoughts for the New Year

Published in ChicagoNow, January 14, 2019

The start of the new millennium was so frightening it had a special name: Y2K (Year 2000). In 1982, Prince’s song 1999 reflected worries of a nuclear apocalypse back then, as the cold war with Russia led many to believe the world would end by the turn of the century. Instead of being depressed, Prince advised us to go out with a bang and party like it’s 1999.

“Say say two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time

So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine…”

When the real 1999 rolled around, we were no longer worried about the cold war and the Russians. Instead, the great concern for the new year was that computers would not understand the date changing into the 2000s, thus wiping out everything from power grids to anything depending on computer technology. It felt apocalyptic.

Thankfully, those fears ended up being a big nothing burger. But this past New Year’s Eve – that was another matter. Looking back over some of the trauma of 2018, I realized I was in a state of anxiety and worry far worse than 1999. My inability to celebrate the new year was fueled by some horrific events and the never-ending actions, tweetstorms, and lies of Donald Trump.

Rather than looking back at and celebrating the highlights of the year, I started 2019 remembering one of the most awful #MeToo moments, the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar for sexually abusing over 250 young gymnasts. In February, the killing of 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was both incredibly painful and yet sadly not surprising. While Trump played golf at Mar-a-Lago, just 40 miles away, his ally at Fox News, Laura Ingraham, actually mocked David Hogg, a young survivor and spokesperson for the students, for not being accepted to college. He was eventually accepted to Harvard, Laura.

The March for Our Lives rally organized by Hogg and his peers gave me hope for the future, but the gun lobby still maintained its powerful hold on our President and many politicians. No new laws were passed. So depressing. Still, I hoped for a better Spring.

That was not to be. Mark Zuckerberg spent time defending all of those Facebook data breaches and Russian connections, but not so much time trying to fix anything. We were treated to the Stormy Daniels/Michael Avanati show, complete with the President of the United States calling Stormy “horse face.” That was just gross and childish name calling, but in May Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear pact against the advice of…almost everyone who understands international politics.

Summer brought even more chaos and extreme cruelty as Trump’s zero tolerance border policy separated migrant children from their parents. Of course, there was no plan to reunite children with their families and horrific images of distraught kids in cages were seared into my mind. How could our country be doing this? As an added bonus, Trump met his now-buddy, Korean dictator Kin Jong Un, in Singapore. Apparently, he found “little rocket man” to be trustworthy.

Just when the summer news seemed too depressing to contemplate, Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. By September’s hearing in which Christine Blasey Ford provided credible testimony about being sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh in high school, and many other stories about his drinking and mistreatment of women surfaced, I was beyond depressed. Despite his own behavior at the hearing demonstrating his temperamental unsuitability, he was confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.

The fall was dominated by hurricane Michael, a painful reminder of Trump’s cruel response to hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico the previous year. Paper towels anyone? Then came the killing of eleven worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg, followed by The Donald’s lack of response to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by agents of Saudi Arabia. Trump reminded us the world is a dangerous place and did nothing to defend journalists or push back against growing anti-Semitism.

While forests burned in November’s California wild fires, our own Nero fiddled around with the theory that someone (not him) was at fault for not raking the forest floor. Don’t blame climate change, as that’s just fake news. More gun violence resulted in a mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. Two little kids died in custody after crossing the border with their asylum-seeking parents. Yes, there was actually a Blue Wave that shifted 40 House seats to the Democrats and sent the largest number of women ever to Congress, but my happiness was short lived. In December, Trump gave us a special Christmas present and shut down the government over funding for his wall.

Headed for a “tender age” shelter

As the near year dawned, I felt extremely anxious about what 2019 would bring. The Mueller investigation chugs on in the background. The government remains shut down, putting 800,000 Americans out of work and not being paid. @realdonaldtrump continues to average fifteen lies per day and cranks out tweets filled with rage and untruths. Turns out, that Trump tax cut wasn’t so great for the middle class. And there is no end in sight to the chaos and immorality of a president who was actually secretly investigated by the FBI for doing Russia’s bidding, either knowingly or unwittingly (either way, not so good). A president who uses words like “shithole countries” to describe Haiti and parts of Africa. A leader who still calls the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico fake news.

How can I welcome another year of this? Sorry, Prince, I just couldn’t party like it’s 1999. I fear this new year will be the true apocalyptic Y2K, disrupting everything I hold as just and moral and what truly makes America great.


by Laurie Levy
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