2002 will be remembered as the year we learned to accept and even enjoy our latent Monstrosity.
For half a century, from 1945 to 2001, the world got milder, warmer, more reasonable. It was the Finlandization of the planet, the unstoppable spread of Scandinavian do-goodism over the whole globe. Even dogs were fitted with microchips so they could be humanely traced and destroyed. On the fringes of the world, the last predators were being hunted to extinction--and though people were sorry to see them go, everyone knew it was inevitable. The age of fang and claw had ended forever.
All that changed when those jets slammed into the WTC. Where the towers had been, there was a gaping hole leading back down into the earth. And out of that hole the monsters emerged. Awakened by the crash, they clawed their way up toward daylight and scrambled out. 2002: Year One of the Age of Monsters. So here they are, the new old monsters:
Nobody wanted to say it, nobody wanted to gloat, but we all knew that religion was on the way out. Copernicus, Darwin...they proved it was nonsense. But we were wrong. It's back. Turns out that people don't care what you can prove. People want to hear something that will give them license to burn somebody. That's why God and Allah are back big-time: they're the two best burn-licensers in the whole pantheon. Only the relatively innocuous religions, like Buddhism, are really fading out; the Monster religions are thriving.
Before the monsters returned, McKinley was known only to teachers' pets trying to memorize the list of presidents. Since then, this Ed McMahon lookalike, our 25th president, has been elevated to God status. McKinley's administration was notable for raw aggression and corruption. He presided over the Spanish-American War, a shameless war of conquest in which the US crushed the decaying Spanish Empire with ease. McKinley waffled about what to do with the Spanish colonies we'd grabbed, so he toured the country to get a consensus--and found that Americans were actually pro-Imperialism. He then enthusiastically annexed the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. Could any president ask for a better role model?
«UImperialist» used to be a bad word, an accusation. Only the crustiest of the Tories were willing to suggest that the Age of Empires was a good thing. Then, around the time cigars came back into fashion, it started to become sexy, a pornographic whisper circulating in the crazier rightwing magazines. Then it jumped to the mainstream. They say it with pride now. After all, if gays could reclaim "dyke" and "queer," why can't Imperialists take back the I-word?
1998: the long reign of the business suit seemed to be crumbling. It started with casual day, when executives wore Levis, attempting to look human. It started spreading through the work week. By the late nineties, dressing down was the norm in business. That's over now, and suits are back in power...and we like them. To tell the truth, casual day always scared us. We're happy we don't have to pretend to be relaxed any more. We're not relaxed. We never were. We never will be.
Somalia was the turning point: after trying to make the Navy and the Air Force play good cop, handing out bags of wheat, it hit us: what the hell are we doing? What are all these gray planes and ships for? See these gun-barrels? They're not supposed to be spitting out grain and pamphlets, God damn it! They work a hell of a lot better doing what they were designed to do. And you know what? The Somalis love us now that we shot a few hundred of them. They're begging us to come back. If you want to be loved, skip the handouts. Send the gunboats.
We used to pretend to be horrified by pictures of the camps where Japanese were intered in WW II. We'd go "Wow, that's horrible!" Of course we were lying. And now we don't have to lie any more. When the CIA snatched a thousand "militant" Muslims from around the world and sent them to Guantanamo for torturing, we all raised a beer in salute. When the INS rounded up 1,000 Iranian-Americans, we furrowed our brows and looked concerned for a second--just a second.