The 21st Century Needs a Rewrite: a Broadway Flop
Ebola is the last straw. ISIS was the second-to-last straw.
History, get me a rewrite.
The 21st century has gone so askew that We the People desperately need a do-over. If the 21st century was a Broadway show, it would be dark by now. The star-crossed storyline, with long wars we're not sure we lost or won under an economic cloud, isn't the sunny stuff of musicals.
Let's start at the beginning: The tied 2000 presidential election, which the Supreme Court broke by one vote. That was, fittingly, the first straw of the new century.
In choosing George Bush over Al Gore in a bare-knuckled 5-4 decision, the Republican-weighted Court gave new meaning to "one man, one vote" after they froze Florida vote counting. It sunk democracy like a stone, the worst decision since the Civil War.
George W. Bush was sworn in on a gloomy day. Months later, on a summer day, he listened lightly to a CIA briefer at his Texas ranch. He heard about a plot to hijack planes on American soil. Maybe he thought advisor Condoleezza Rice had things under control.
The second straw burst out of an azure sky, when the 20th century finally crashed in fury. A dark new age was upon us. Americans were thrust into tears of grief as the World Trade Center towers fell down into dust and the Pentagon was rammed. Three thousand people died. We were too shattered to be angry with the president and the failure to share clues between the FBI and CIA. Nineteen men defeated a superpower with a simple plan. Sept. 11 never should have happened.
You know what's next: On his way to war on Iraq, Bush used Sept. 11 and false claims of weapons of mass destruction. We were too easily led into war by the president and his horsemen: Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Good soldier Colin Powell, secretary of state, sprained his good name by vouching for WMD at the United Nations. Rice warned, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." Then came Homeland Security at airports across the land.
The 2003 march to war in Iraq was the third straw. At least, a Gore presidency would have refrained from a rush to war and pushed for climate change. Alas, the media decided Bush was the "likable" guy.
Major newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post clambered on the war wagon. Pundits are sorry now for supporting the sloppy invasion of Iraq, where antiquities were looted and civil society uprooted.
Here's the strangest thing: Secular Iraq under strongman Saddam Hussein is looking better all the time. I bet Pentagon war planners think so, eyeing ISIS. Somehow we've destabilized Baghdad after 11 years.
The 2004 election foundered when John Kerry failed to respond to the Swift Boaters who denied his Vietnam War valor. The fourth straw. Hurricane Katrina was the fifth straw in 2005. While Washington slept, New Orleans wept.
The next straw follows from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The economic downtown of 2008 reverberates to this day. The economy was dragged by the trillions of dollars spent, tons of blood spilled in foreign deserts, towns and mountains. We pay dearly at home for military adventures with foggy outcomes.
The 2008 election brought a spate of euphoria. Barack Obama's victory over Hillary Clinton was the race's close call. Eighteen million voters were sorry to see her lose. Dashing, dreamy Obama needed political sauce and seasoning.
Excuse me, did I hear the name Clinton? If I recall rightly, that lovable, loquacious president made the '90s play out like a Broadway musical. Bill Clinton reminds me of Harold Hill, the charming confidence man in "The Music Man." Hillary reminds one of Marian the Librarian. If you prefer, Bill's a dead ringer for Tom Sawyer, who talked his friends into painting his fence.
The point is: happy endings. The entertaining Clinton presidency, which never had a dull day, ended well. The three Ps: Peace, prosperity, popularity.
Rewrite this flop— more musical, less tragedy. Take it from the top.
To find out more about Jamie Stiehm, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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