Well it is almost here. As a lad in the early 1950s, I read comic books and some were futuristic. They showed how life would be in year 2000. We would have cars that flew through the air, among tall skyscrapers. The cars had plastic bubble tops to allow for better vision. I suppose they figured there would still be dumb drivers in year 2000.
I recall calculating how old I'd be when 2000 came, and I wondered if I would live that long. I never figured that I'd be writing an article on the subject, just to avoid being the only writer in America who hasn't written something on it. Nor did the thoughts of a lad in the 1950s approach the question of whether I'd be married, be a father, a grandfather, nor did I contemplate the fate of my parents, brothers, or close relatives. I guess such absence of thought is what made us youthful and carefree, once many years ago.
Barring the unforeseen, or a dumb driver, it is likely, and getting more likely every day, that we will see Year 2000. The last 50 years have seen a lot of changes, some that I could have gotten along without. Doing genealogy, one cannot help but wonder what our ancestors would think of our current lives. After all the newness wore off the gadgets and trinkets of our lives and with the realization that all the time-saving devices we have are off-set by new demands on our time, what would be their assessment? What is our assessment?
What is my take on the subject of the new millennium? It is over-rated. There is nothing magical about the date. It is an arbitrary calendar date, not even uniformly used in the world. It has no mystical powers; no universal significance. The biggest concern is whether the lights will go out and the chronically stupid will take to the streets and entertain the idea of looting. It says something of our culture, that we distrust our neighbors so completely, or that we might have reason to.
I will personally promise you that the lights will go out somewhere on New Years Eve. There are always power failures- ice storms, windstorms, drunks hitting utility poles, squirrels shorting out transformers, routine equipment failures. It will happen. Power will be out, somewhere in the US on New Years Eve. Is there going to be widespread power outage and revolution in the street? Not likely, unless the government decides to do away with Social Security checks.
Are we at risk on New Year's Eve? Absolutely. There will be entirely too many drunks on the road; too many folks who have their inhibitions drowned. There will be people who will die, unnecessarily, on December 31 or January 1 due to the direct or indirect results of consuming too much alcohol. Some will have made the decision to drink to excess and will contribute to their own problem. Others will drink moderately or abstain and will fall victim to those who did not. Some will not die as the outcome, but will live on, physically or mentally impaired.
Will we be a kinder and gentler people in year 2000? Were we in year 1999? Life goes on and things change. Things that change for the good seem to allow bad things to happen. Life is complicated. The ending of the East/West Cold War is generally taken to be a good thing, except by munitions factories and career military officers. However, the loss of the East/West super powers has allowed ugly little nationalist/religious wars to break out. We now have dictators that have nuclear and biological war capabilities. Some would have us begin to surrender our privacy and freedom for the promise of greater safety from terrorists. We have learned to accept search and security checks as the price to pay for air travel. When planes crash, we think of radicals blowing them out of the air, before we think of mechanical failure.
But none of this is really new. We killed hundreds of thousands of our own during the Civil War. The equivalent of the entire population of Galesburg were frequently killed in single battles during the Civil War that had no real military consequence other than to bleed away the men of the Confederacy. Before that, we killed and were killed by the Indians who found and settled North America before we did. We fought wars with our ancestral homelands- England, France, Spain.
I don't expect much new to be alarmed about in year 2000. I don't expect we will become any better or worse than we are. We can become better educated, but we seem to be unable to become better behaved. I suppose, after all, ''we are only human.''
It is hard to predict what will happen in the future. One can fret or be optimistic and neither will affect the grand scheme of things. As such, the choice is an individual one. However, my own millennium humor is limited to the following: A tax accountant was thrilled to hear that his wife, Kay, was pregnant and that the expected date was mid-December. Not only would he be a father, but also he'd get a full year tax deduction for only two weeks of parenthood. On the predicted day, his wife delivered not one but two children. Taken back but the sudden news and the quick financial calculations of the total costs of two children going through college at the same time, he could only exclaim, ''Why Two Kay?''
I hope you have a safe and happy New Years Eve. Stay at home, celebrate with a loved one, lock the door, and go to bed early. Don't give your all-too-human fellowman the opportunity to cause you harm on New Years Eve. New Years Day will come if you take care of yourself and your own. Wake up in your bed, not in a hospital or hospital waiting room. Work hard to let New Years Day simply be another day. Face it with a good night's sleep. On January 1, may you find yourself safe, healthy, older, and wiser. If you have a wife named Kay, perhaps she will kiss you twice in the morning and you too can wonder, ''Why two, Kay?''