Strait On: America’s changing lifestyles, Part 9: Bye bye sad sack, hello new world

Photo source: Wikipedia
While the country felt secure that we were safe and at peace, that feeling was shattered when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York.

■ Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter

Happy birthday 2000. May the 1900s rest in peace. That was the hope and prayer of every peace loving being on earth, and never more important than to residents of the USA. We had endured a century of wars that seemed to happen on a ratio of every ten or twenty years since the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Just when it was starting to feel like peace
We might have known that if something could go wrong it would. For the first time in memory, if ever, the U. S. Supreme Court decided a presidential election by shutting off Florida’s recount. George W. Bush defeated Vice President Al Gore by a thin margin, which set us off to a new century of a split in political opinions.
Bush not only inherited a government trying to get its sights set straight, but barely past the halfway point of his first year 9/11 came along. War of some kind was bound to come, but against whom? Although most of the 19 assailants involved were from Saudi Arabia and walked across from Canada (not Mexico) the Canadians would never be blamed for a lax border that allowed the demolition of the Twin Towers in New York and the sudden death of nearly 3,000 American citizens and the wounding of 6,000 others.

Blame an easy target
For eight years, the United States had been supplying munitions and financial aid to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in his war with our hated enemy, Iran. Suddenly, ignoring the obvious culprits from Saudi Arabia, Washington’s propaganda machine built up a case against Saddam. When the Republican Party took over control of Congress in the midterm elections, the spin machines declared that Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” and must be taken out. On March 20, 2003 U. S. Forces bombed Baghdad and we were off to the races again. President Bush’s May 1 statement that we had “mission accomplished,” was far from accurate. Our war in the Middle East is now the longest one we have ever fought. So much for predictions.
Just as Johnson and Nixon did during the Vietnam War, the administration’s propaganda minions poured out reams and reams of material which falsely led us to believe we were winning a war in the Middle East when it was apparent that we were bogged down in an unconventional melee with religious overtones which go back to Richard III of England and his Crusades to convert Muslims to Christianity.

Is it defense or financial suicide
It was defense spending that brought down the Soviet Union. President Harry Truman, who ranks high in presidential leadership, once said that, “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.” One might modify that saying slightly and say that the only thing we don’t know—are the lessons of history we failed to learn!
Following the bursting of the housing bubble in mid-2007, the housing market correction and the follow-on subprime mortgage crisis, the United States entered a severe recession. By 2007, it felt like our economy had jumped out of the Wall Street airplane without a parachute, splattering onto the American scene like a ripe watermelon from a second-floor window.
Soon, we would do the unthinkable and elect the first black American president. The country’s poor got even poorer as the middle class joined them in near nonexistence. Domestic affairs were all but forgotten as we poured billions of dollars down a Middle East rat hole with no daylight in sight. It was called a recession when, in reality, it took us to the brink of a major depression. While Obama was struggling to rescue the economy, the body bags came into Fort Dix, New Jersey by the plane load from Iraq and Afghanistan on a daily basis. While the wealthy 1 percent were getting richer, the rest of us glued signs on our rear bumpers that said, “We are the 99%.” Economically, the decade following the stock market crash was tantamount in the U.S. to what people in Japan had termed their “lost decade.”

Photo courtesy of Pixabay
After the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, it expanded the war by bombing and invading Iraq, supposedly to find and destroy Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, weapons that were never found.

The social situation
Despite our dire financial condition, our diverse social life would progress as though it was the Roaring Twenties with an attitude of “if we can’t get rich, we can still have fun.”
Cash mobs (a form of flash mob) appeared in local communities throughout the country to support local businesses. Thousands of folks binge-spent what money they had at particular stores to help them stay afloat.
During the 10 years between 2000 and 2010, cupcake wars developed nationwide. Not to be left out, the donut and croissant industry went one better. A baker in New York developed a cream-filled merger between the two and, scarcity dictating price, he limited two of the sugary concoctions to each customer. Within a week, they were selling for as much as $100 each on the black market. Amazing. The moneyed set also had their fads.
The hillbillies doted on a new pseudo-country-trash television show—“Duck Dynasty.” It advocated a lifestyle more apropos to the 18th and 19th centuries, but sale of Duck Dynasty products filled the coffers of Walmart and other big-box stores catered to by a population seeking to spend less money for popular items.
Low cost food trucks traversed up and down the avenues, offering such items as gourmet burgers, tacos, lobster rolls and more. They continue to exist today.
Some of us had never heard of frozen yogurt, but suddenly frozen yogurt stores appeared en masse from New York City to Podunk, America. Those establishments caused a slump in ice cream sales and continue to compete with strawberry, vanilla and chocolate as favorite flavors.
And there were more fads, including: gluten-free diets, Honey Boo, Occupy Wall Street, planking, sulfas, The Hunger Games and the Kardashians.

Fashion trends
Leggings, popular in the military during World War I, were suddenly back in style again popularized by headline-hunting starlet Lindsay Lohan. Young girls were especially addicted to these leg adornments.
As anyone with two eyes can recognize, the “homeless look” came into fashion. Some jeans are so slashed and torn that one might wonder how they adhere to the body, but they do. You probably remember when such attire ended up in the trash bin because Goodwill and Salvation Army wouldn’t bother with such trashy garments. Such items of clothing often sells for a hundred dollars or more. They call it style.
Studs and gender-bending are the rage. Also, what used to be called passe and “old fashioned” is now treasured as vintage and chic. Sequins, destroyed denim, and dresses over jeans became trendy.
The TV series “Mad Men,” spurred a return to the 1930’s styles. Our grandparents might feel right in style with the current array of polka dot dresses and overalls.
This all became “fashionable” during the first 10 years of the 21st Century.
“There will be blood.”

Top tens
The top ten movies of the decade, according to Rolling Stone… maybe you forgot some of them:
1. There Will Be Blood
2. Children of Men
3. Mulholland Drive
4. A History of Violence
5. No Country for Old Men
6. The Incredibles
7. Brokeback Mountain
8. The Departed
9. Mystic River
10. The Lord of the Rings
“Arrested Development.”

The top ten TV shows included:
1. Arrested Development
2. The Wire
3. The West Wing
4. The Daily Show
5. The Office
6. The Sopranos
7. Lost
8. Battlestar Galactica
9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
10. Mad Men
“Poker Face.”

And the top 10 pop songs were:
1. Poker Face—Lady Gaga
2. Lose Yourself—Eminem
3. Sexy Back—Justin Timberlake
4. Empire State of Mind—Alicia Keys
5. We Belong Together—Mariah Carey
6. Da Club—50 Cent
7. American Idiot—Green Day
8. Crazy—Gnarls Barkley
9. Beautiful—U-2
10. Beautiful—Christina Aguilar

I’m betting 10 to one that most of my readers will say, “Who????” Not if you have teenagers in your house or younger friends.
You may ask, “Why relive this nonsense?” Well, it isn’t nonsense. It is who we have been. This entire series has been an effort to retrace our steps since the late 1920s. So much has happened that we run the risk of forgetting it all.
This will be the last installment in this series. From 2010 to date should be fresh in your minds and so it’s not necessary to review. I learned a lot that I either didn’t know or had forgot. I still remember lye soap, wash tubs and wash boards; outside toilets and oil lamps; radio crystal sets where only clear channel stations could be picked up and usually with a lot of static; tennis shoes with newspaper and cardboard inserts to keep our feet off the ground; horse and wagon vegetable carriers that brought our food straight from the farm to the city streets.
Other recollections include 10 cent movies on Saturday morning showing news, comics, and serials with movies. Every time I think I’m having it hard, I remember those days. Most folks today don’t know what hard times are. Some of us do. Perhaps if we had taught our children the work ethic as we were brought up we wouldn’t be complaining about their wanting to live at home forever. They’d be stretching the leash to get out into the world and discover all the wonders that lay ahead of them.
As far back as Aristotle folks have been saying, “Whatever are we going to do about these kids?” I guess some things never change.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this series—Just sayin’.
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