Over the next few weeks most of you will read and hear countless thoughts on the past year. It’s likely that the majority of those opinions will contain phrases like “most important,” “unprecedented,” “historic” and “monumental.”
Thinkers, writers and everyday people will all have something to add to the understanding of the past 365 days and many of those people will use those ideas to make a bold prediction based on the year that was.
It was “The Year of the Superlative” in America and everyone had their own exaggerations to impose. Well, this columnist is here to silence the movement that erupted in 2010.
The 2010 election was not the most important election in history. It was not unprecedented. In fact, it was very precedented. It was almost a mirror image of what happened in 1994 and that is simply the most recent example. The president’s party almost always loses a sizable number of seats in the first midterm after taking power.
The election also didn’t determine the fate of the nation for the next hundred years. Two more years of Democratic power wouldn’t have sent us careening into the rocky abyss of socialism and two years of Republican control won’t destroy the proverbial “Main Street.”
Politics in America is very centrist. The difference between American Right and American Left isn’t wide enough to pull the fabric of country apart after one election. If the difference was a hallway, we’d have to walk single file just to fit through.
Yet this year, CNN put 16 people on television at one time to tell us how much of a seismic shift we had in this country. FOX News couldn’t go five minutes without making a broad accusation that wasn’t false, but also wasn’t really true and MSNBC couldn’t go a day without one of their hosts calling the Tea Party racist.
Every word has been over the top. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wasn’t satisfied until everyone was as paranoid about everything as he is. Almost every column he wrote ended with the Republicans destroying the earth in fewer than six days.
You couldn’t turn around in America with someone telling you something that was grossly exaggerated. The source was probably a sensationalized media that has more hours and more column inches than ever before.
But the American people are to blame. As hard working and as resilient as they are, moderation has never been the forte of the general public. Americans like fast cars, huge televisions and sandwiches that substitute fried chicken for bread.
The wild and journalistically inept media are the product of a population that loves conflict. The only thing the public loves more is hating the media.
So you can see how this problem exacerbates itself. But fear not, we aren’t doomed even if that’s what you heard on cable last night. China isn’t about to overtake us and the free market isn’t going to disappear overnight.
It might sell papers and commercial time to exaggerate the news and fill it with opinions, but it doesn’t really capture the true state of the nation.
It was a contentious year, but we’ve had worse. It wasn’t 1968. It wasn’t 1929. It certainly wasn’t 1860.
This year, if anything, was a year of exaggeration, overinflating and superlative. It was an important year, but not more important than most. It was a year of change, but not any more so than most years.
So don’t get caught up in the excitement. We’ve been through a lot, but we’ve been through worse. Don’t lose your head over something that isn’t worth it.
As Jon Stewart said so brilliantly during his sharp and funny “Rally for Sanity,” we can disagree without being disagreeable. We don’t need so many superlatives. We’ll all be a lot better off if we didn’t let passion get in the way. We need less emotion and more earnestness.
This year, adults acted like children and people who are supposed to be serious wore dunce hats. But we survived. We persevered. We always do.