Quick--what happened in 2007?
I'm not talking about your sister's wedding, your Tijuana honeymoon, that bare-knuckles fight with your parents at Christmas, the new dog-catcher job, or other personal battles won or lost. Try to think of global events, newsworthy happenings worthy of sustained communal attention. Something that percolated in the headlines for a week or more.
Bet you can't think of a single thing. Zilch. Zip. The mind washes, reaching and straining, only to come back with a lumpy gray mass of...huh? It feels a lot like the morning after a night of heavy drinking: must have been passable, and at least we made it out alive.
You're not alone. I can't remember anything about 2007, and neither could the dozens of people I polled about it. We couldn't tell you who won the World Series or American Idol, or a single bill to make it out of Congress. We can't say what Bush did or any cool movies that came out or any celebrity divorces of note. We are unable to recall if it was hot or cold, if there were any major terrorist attacks or plane crashes or landmark albums or non-lethal stock tips. The Surge may or may not have been in 2007; we can't really remember. Even after ruminating for weeks, I could only think of a couple of minor incidents, all of which slip my mind. Ask around, and you'll find most people can't remember a thing either.
My point: 2007 is the most forgettable year in a long, long time. It's like that one date your bookkeeper set you up with, a shlumpy drab dresser with winding breezily delivered stories about pizza delivery and cats and whatshisface and whodidwhatnow and thank god that's over, please pass the tequila. A bad date, at least, inspires memorable moments, something to hang onto: that wart on her nose, his fart during the movie. Whereas 2007's blotted from consciousness altogether.
Compare that to 2008, the most dynamic, exhilarating, and mentally demanding year since the Wall came down. You've got Obama, McCain, recession, Olympics, Palin, shoe-throwing, the mortgage meltdown, Chinese Democracy, iPhone 3G, Indiana Jones, Hillary, Batman, Spitzer, Blagojevich, Prop 8. Russia v. Georgia, Israel v. Gaza. Obama's speech on race. Lehman Brothers and AIG. The news served up a mind-boggling diet of grass-fed steak, complete with epic rises and ridiculous sidebars and vicious falls from grace. Billy Joel would have enough material for "We Didn't Start the Fire 2" pulling from October alone.
It's only natural that after our most recent 12-month carnival, 2007 would seem relatively blah. But 2006 was a year earlier, and that at least cooked up Democratic Congressional victories I can remember, plus the World Cup. 2005 gave us Katrina. 2004, Kerry v. Bush. 2003: Iraq. 2002: Afghanistan. Which brings us back to 9/11.
Every now and then, history lays an egg. What happened in 1957? 1910? 1887-1897? The entire 16th century? But in the modern era of information overload covering every last imaginable semi-newsworthy event, from Paris Hilton's undergarments to Steve Jobs' blood pressure, isn't it shocking that nearly nothing sticks from just a year back?
2007 proves that, on occasion, society fizzles. 2007 was a year of continuation, of safety and sameness, of steady jobs and wavering home prices and Iraq and Bush and another load of the usual. We muddled through 365 days of human life without really growing or expanding or trying something new. We were low on Big Ideas; we went through the motions; we didn't have a lot of luck either way. Today's economy and mass layoffs ain't pretty, but at least we've got thinkers, action and change, a glimpse of a road that might lead to sure footing. In the long run, there's nowhere to go but up.
I'll take that over a dud like 2007 any year of the week.