I'm not sure where the hell Joe Klein was for the last 12 months, because 2010 actually struck me as a year when a lot happened, both cosmically and personally. America seems poised on the brink between two radically different philosophies -- one a forward-leaning (copyright, 2010, MSNBC) center-left can-do spirit epitomized by health care reform and allowing gays to serve openly in the military, and the other what I'm coming to see as "American fundamentalism," that we are the One exceptional country of the world...ordained by God, no questions asked. I really could see us going down either road. On a personal level, 2010 also teetered -- going literally (no pun intended) in a matter of hours from the thrill of this to the agony of this. Hopefully, the meaning of all that, for me, will be emerging from 2011 leaner and in better shape than ever.
Ditto for America.
It's funny -- I wondered whether my posts on Attytood really reflected the ups and downs of a remarkable year. I think so. Here are five posts I'll probably still remember long after I've forgotten (hopefully, anyway) the Eagles' first and last Tuesday night game:
-- Along came "Jones": Why my generation isn't saving the world; June 8, 2010: This was a year that even many one-time supporters became deeply frustrated with President Obama, the government in general, and the slow pace of change. The backstory of my contemporary Elena Kagan, Obama's successful nomination for the Supreme Court, caused me to wonder whether there was something deeply flawed about my own generation -- the second half of the Baby Boom recently rechristened "Generation Jones" -- and our ability to lead:
As long as I live, I'll never forget the night that Elena Kagan and I got drunk together. It was November 4, 1980, to be exact. OK, before I go much further with this, I should make clear: I've never actually met President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, and on the night that we got drunk, I was in Providence, R.I., and she was at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was Election Night, and while the booze may have been flowing on elite college campus and in liberal enclaves, the election of Ronald Reagan and fellow conservatives was, oddly, enough, a seeming moment of numb clarity for a big chunk of my generation.
-- The day U.S. soccer fans waited a lifetime for; June 23, 2010: We should never forget that every year brings us moments of joy and wonder. Oddly enough, most of these are the moments that go unblogged -- watching my two teenagers blossom into adulthood, for example. But some happy times are very public, especially for a sports fanatic -- including the Flyers' remarkable comeback, Roy Halladay's post-season no-hitter, Miracle at the New Meadowlands, and then there was this (pictured at top of the blog):
After the game, I tuned into Philly's current sports talk king and heard caller after caller wanting to talk soccer, about how exciting the game was. One caller said he was a UPS driver in the middle of his daily route -- he said he saw people literally running out into the street after the game ended; that's how excited Americans were, and how anxious to share the incredible thing they'd just seen with their neighbors.
People running out into the street, In Philadelphia, Pa. Over a soccer goal. Just the way I'd once fantasized, yet in my heart doubted would ever happen.
-- The Taserification of America; May 5, 2010. Notice a trend here? In a year in which real life -- the persistence of high unemployment in particular, not to mention the broader failings of our leadership and of American values -- was often just too damn depressing, our playing fields became the places where these metaphors were increasingly acted out. So it was with the Taserification of America, a sign of our national freakout over risk, a theme we will see one more time in this blog post:
I guess that quaint time was America before 9/11 -- after which for some reason we lost all sense of proportionality on how to respond to various levels of wrongdoing. After my low-key blog suggestion that Tasering a mildly lawbreaking fan wasn't a great idea, I got an email from a reader. He said, in part: "Were you there last night? I was. Idiots like that are unpredictable at best! The days of "Morgana (sic) the kissing bandit" are gone. We live in a post 911 world." I don't mean to be harsh to the emailer -- he actually made some decent points about security entering Citizens Bank Park.
But I also had to wonder: Must we see every single act of wrongdoing, even minor ones, through the prism of 9/11? Is a fan running on a field in the same ballpark with killing nearly 3,000 people? What has happened to us in this country. Did anyone call for stun-gunning "Morganna the kissing bandit" in the 1970s because we lived in "a post-JFK assassination world" and that maybe she had a concealed weapon inside of those, um. concealed weapons. Of course not. Americans have changed..and not for the better.
-- It's not about the mosque -- it's America's war on "the Other"; Aug. 18, 2010: Of course, some days people weren't afraid of a kid running on a baseball field or a few snowflakes, but "The Other," people who would -- in the eyes of people like the Tea Party Movement -- destroy fundamental American values. These included undocumented Mexicans, law-abiding Muslims...oh, and the president of the United States:
It is no surprise that by mid-2009 I was hearing from the leader of the anti-Obama group the Delaware 9-12 Patriots that the 44th president of the United States "is absolutely not American" while his neighbors were screaming at town hall meetings: "I don't want this flag to change. I want my country back!" These rank-and-file citizens were often echoing what they heard in a 24/7 right-wing media bubble of ratings-driven irresponsibility -- outlandish neo-McCarthyite allegations that Obama had Commies and Maoists working in the West Wing, Glenn Beck's notorious claim that the president has "a deep-seated hatred of white people" and, perhaps more tellingly, of "white culture," and most recently radio's Rush Limbaugh's bizarre charge that Obama is probably the "best anti-American president the country's ever had."
In this paranoid environment, the president looked as much "the Other" as the day laborer Roberto Valdez in the Wal-Mart parking lot. High-employment and the destruction of the working class in America is increasingly demanding a scapegoat, and the right-wing media and an increasingly erratic GOP establishment is more than happy to direct people's palapable anger down the economic ladder.
Ultimately, life is all about risk management, and the reward of football in the snow -- so often a beautiful thing -- means that thousands of fans, not to mention the players and coaches who seem disappointed and befuddled by this decision were willing to take a few risks to see it. You know, a term that gets used a lot in the great political debate -- overused, in my opinion -- is whether America has become "a nanny state." Usually I'm on the other side (like when it comes to health care, in which...oh, nevermind), but in this case I think here it's perfectly OK to channel your Inner Rush Limbaugh and say that "the nanny state" killed this football game.
My favorite music blog, PowerPop, has a regular feature about the "Early Clue to a New Direction." Is this last-week of the year post -- which got more attention than anything I wrote in the first 51 weeks -- an early clue to a new direction for Attytood? Yes and no. I predict that 2011 is going to be a less overtly political year than any we've seen at least for a decade. I think the soul searching is going to go much deeper than who's up and who's down on Capitol Hill. My prediction: Americans will be grappling on a much more spiritual level with our place in the world, and I intend to be a part of that.