Dubya, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, Wall Street. TIME Magazine gets it right when they call the aughties “the decade from hell.”
Bookended by 9/11 at the start and a financial wipeout at the end, the first 10 years of this century will very likely go down as the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post–World War II era. We’re still weeks away from the end of ’09, but it’s not too early to pass judgment. Call it the Decade from Hell, or the Reckoning, or the Decade of Broken Dreams, or the Lost Decade. Call it whatever you want — just give thanks that it is nearly over. Calling the 2000s “the worst” may seem an overwrought label in a decade in which we fought no major wars, in historical terms. It is a sadly appropriate term for the families of the thousands of 9/11 victims and soldiers and others killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the lack of a large-scale armed conflict makes these past 10 years stand out that much more. This decade was as awful as any peacetime decade in the nation’s entire history. Between the West’s ongoing struggle against radical Islam and our recent near-death economic experience — trends that have largely skirted much of the developing world — it’s no wonder we feel as if we’ve been through a 10-year gauntlet. Americans may have the darkest view of recent history, since it’s in the U.S. that the effects of those trends have been most acute. If you live in Brazil or China, you have had a pretty good decade economically. Once, we were the sunniest and most optimistic of nations. No longer.
On the gay side of the decade, it was a mixed bag. We gained marriage rights in seven states, but then lost them in two. In 31 states bigoted bans on same-sex marriage were passed, but a handful of states enacted some other recognition of gay relationships. Hate crimes legislation was finally passed, but other critical LGBT rights issues remain mired. Gay people have never been more visible, but our enemies have never been more emboldened.
We must all work together to ensure that 2010 ushers in a decade where complete civil equality for LGBT people exists at every level of government. Can you imagine the day when we can finally retire the entire LGBT civil rights movement? Dare we dream of a life without opinion polls, ballot drives, fundraising, and election night gut-clenching? Could the next decade be the one in which we can happily ignore the hatred of the Christian right and the vile actions of the likes of Maggie Gallagher, Tony Perkins, James Dobson, and Peter LaBarbera? I think it’s doable. It’s going to get even uglier, I fear, before it gets much better. But I also think there’s a very good chance that ten years from now, we here on this here website thingy might look back with fondness and pride on “the Gay Decade.” Make it so.