We’re still alive, the world is still in orbit and most computers were still operating. Not just a new decade, but a new millennium. This special time in history meant a chance for new beginnings, never-before-seen feats and enjoying the high-tech life.
No flying cars … yet, but the 2000s were a shaky start for this millennium. It was 10 years of memorable occasions that literally shocked the Earth, our financial structure and the way of life as we knew it.
I’m grateful we had familiar faces and sounds to fall back on like Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg and Usher. But the decade of music belonged to new, edgy acts like Eminem, Outkast, Beyoncé and her backup singers, Destiny Children.
The decade began with Christina Aguilera explaining, “What a Girl Wants” and concluded with Katy Perry declaring, “I Kissed a Girl.” And apparently she liked it.
The 2000s took away America’s innocence. Our music was more graphic and unapologetic. Meanwhile movies and television made little to no sense. Personally I enjoyed “The Bernie Mac Show,” “George Lopez” and “My Wife and Kids.”
Critically acclaimed shows like “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men,” “The Wire,” “Arrested Development,” “The Office,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Breaking Bad” challenged minds and made us laugh, shed a few tears and tune back in the following week.
But the majority of advertising revenue was generated by fine programming from VH1, competition game shows and adult-based cartoons like “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show.” OK, I thank God that Seth MacFarland didn’t make a certain flight back in September 2001, because I enjoy all of those shows still today.
At the box office, reality was suspended most of the time with flicks like “The Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter,” “Gladiator” and “The Dark Knight.” For children, the pros took advantage of technology to bring to life “The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters Inc.,” “Shrek,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “Ice Age.”
Now all these movies and shows can be enjoyed anywhere on devices like the iPhone, which Steve Jobs introduced to the masses on Jan. 9, 2007.
On an iPhone or an Android, we can download tunes and movies and stream shows. By the end of this decade the average person under 30 has had hundreds of songs at their fingertips as MP3 files.
Those songs were needed to escape reality and Reality TV throughout the 10-year period. From 2000 to 2009, there was some innocent events surrounded by landmark tragedies. Here is my ranking of the 10 to remember from the 2000s.
This is my favorite sitcom of all time. So I have to place it in this countdown of the most impressionable things in this decade. “Scrubs” ran on NBC and later on ABC from 2001 to 2010. It was a medical comedy with some dramatic elements created by the genius Bill Lawrence. Dr. John “JD” Dorian was played by Zach Braff. He was our narrator and protagonist. The show combined strategies used by “The Simpsons” and “MASH” while mixing in fantasy and daydream scenes. The crew at Sacred Heart kept up the fast-paced slapstick humor and knew when to slow things down to deliver a strong message during dramatic episodes. I have to give a grand salute to the actors who brought to life the doctors, nurses and staff of the only hospital I’m willing to visit. Thank you Braff, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, Neil Flynn, Ken Jenkins, John C. McGinley and Judy Reyes.
One of the biggest life lessons for me came courtesy of McGinley’s Dr. Cox. Losing 125 pounds starting in 2009, Cox said, “The key to my exercise program is this one simple truth. I hate my body. You understand, the second you look in the mirror and you’re happy with what you see, baby, you’ve just lost the battle.”
Words to live by because “Scrubs” is life.
9. Corporate scandals
The Enron scandal of 2001 comes to mind first. Shareholders lost $74 billion there. The following year Worldcom inflated assets by as much as $11 billion, leading to 30,000 lost jobs and $180 billion in losses for investors.
Tyco also made 2002 a sad year for investors as the CEO and CFO stole $150 million and inflated company income by $500 million.
And we were just getting started as Healthsouth, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Saytam and Bernie Madoff cost several billions of dollars and careers.
The greed that was born in the 1980s went into overdrive in the 2000s. The greedy got too greedy and watchdogs shone a light on these criminals. Some are still trying to recover from the financial injustice.
8. Death of Michael Jackson
Personally I picked Prince over Michael Jackson in the battle of icons from the ‘80s. But I still understood the impact of the King of Pop on the world. Even today Jackson remains the standard in the music industry for cultural influence, showmanship, performance standards and tireless work ethic.
By the time of his death June 25, 2009, Jackson had become a punchline because of his consistently changing appearance, criminal allegations and kooky family. But when Jackson never woke up from his medical cocktail, we all traveled back to our favorite Jackson performance, video or song.
For me, the moonwalk at the 1984 Grammys was heart stopping. The “Remember the Time” video still makes me watch it all the way through. And my favorite Jackson tune is “We’re Almost There.”
Jackson’s death was during a year of legends leaving the world like Farrah Fawcett, Patrick Swayze, Ted Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, Billy Mays, Bea Arthur and Ed McMahon.
7. Steroids in sports
Here are a few names linked to steroids forever: Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong. Major League Baseball took a major hit on credibility with home runs flying out of ballparks at a record rate.
Then in cycling, Armstrong was the face and icon of the sport, winning seven straight Tour de France titles. That is the Super Bowl of the sport. But as we’ve learned, cycling might be the dirtiest sport on the planet.
Then in track and field, several names popped up for positive tests, including America’s sweetheart, Jones. Her image took a huge hit from her positive test results.
But the MLB was hit the hardest by the lack of trust from the American public. The names read like a 1990s and 2000s legends game with Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens.
My favorite baseball player of all time is Barry Lamar Bonds. From his days to the Pirates as a skinny outfielder to the power-hitting megatron in San Francisco, I loved to watch him play. So the night of Aug. 7, 2007, will forever be special to me, watching him crush home run No. 756 against the Washington Nationals. Bonds was the best of a clean era and he was unstoppable during the Steroid Era.
In 2007, unemployment hit a record high of 10 percent in the United States. The Great Recession began in 2007 and experts say it ended in June 2009. It all began with the collapse of an $8 trillion housing bubble. The resulting loss of wealth led to cutbacks in consumer spending. It was America’s greatest financial downfall since the Great Depression.
5. Reality TV
For some reason U.S. Americans had no need for traditional sitcoms. No longer did we want trained actors to bring to life scripts written by creative, brilliant minds. No, all of sudden we had a hunger for Reality TV.
Since 2007, we’ve been “Keeping up with the Kardashians”. We have to tune into the potential love of “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette.” If romance is not your flavor, help the music industry nab its next star like Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia or Carrie Underwood.
If you don’t want the responsibility of voting for a winner or watching everyday citizens compete on a format like “Survivor,” just tune into mindless hits like “Joe Millionaire,” “The Real Housewives,” “Jersey Shore,” “Teen Mom” or “America’s Next Top Model.”
MTV gave birth to this style of “reality” television back in 1992 with “Real World.” And millions have tuned in from week to week to watch ordinary people interact with others in a controlled environment.
Whenever cameras are rolling and somebody shouts “Action!” reality is suspended. So these shows are not reality, and they subtract IQ points by the second. But the one saving grace of this genre was that it gave comedic geniuses like Dave Chappelle material for his transcendent program, “Chappelle’s Show.”
4. Hurricane Katrina
On Aug. 23, 2005, a storm was brewing in the Atlantic Ocean and heading toward the Gulf Coast. Over the next week, Hurricane Katrina rewrote American history, destroyed things in its path and took lives.
Hurricane Katrina was an extremely destructive and deadly Category 5 hurricane that caused catastrophic damage from central Florida to Texas. Two key elements assisted Katrina’s destruction – the storm surge and the levee failure. New Orleans became the epicenter of the destruction. The images of desperate people having to make the Superdome their home through flooded conditions still lingers in my mind.
FEMA had a slow response to those in need and took huge criticism. And several residents from the damaged areas still live in cities like Houston, St. Louis, Atlanta, Jackson and Memphis. Katrina was the most costly Atlantic hurricane at $125 billion in damages.
3. Barack Obama’s election
My dad was born in 1961. And when Thomas Sellers Sr. came to be, John F. Kennedy was president of the United States. The previous 34 men to hold the office were Caucasian just like him. And after JFK’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, the next eight presidents were also white.
Then history was made the night of Nov. 4, 2008 when Barack Obama defeated Senator John McCain of Arizona to become the 44th U.S. president. The senator from Illinois was the first African-American elected to the White House. Then 47 years old, the Democrat garnered 365 electoral votes and nearly 53 percent of the popular vote.
Obama was born in 1961 in Hawaii to a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya. Over the next 47 years, Obama traveled the world, shaped his mind and was groomed into the ideal candidate to make American history.
That night as he celebrated with his family in Chicago, I thought about my dad and grandfather being alive to witness this moment. I know the older the person, no matter the race, the historic election meant more.
2. Social media platform
At the beginning of this decade, events in the world brought this country closer to together. There was an unspeakable bond and pride in this country. Then over the next nine years, U.S. Americans appeared to be connecting even more, but in actuality we were slowly become disconnected through social media.
The first popular platform that gave access to each other was MySpace. Believe it or not, MySpace is still operating, folks. It is the social networking website offering an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music and videos. MySpace was the largest social networking site in the world from 2005 to 2009.
Then Facebook hit the scene and took over the market for a long time. Designed to keep college students on the same page, Facebook grew into the place to be without going anywhere in the latter part of the decade.
As cellphones matured into smartphones, social media programs like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and later Instagram and Snapchat were easier to use anywhere at any time.
Now grandmas and grandpas have a social media account. And our children’s social skills have suffered.
1. Sept. 11 attack
Post the worst tragedy on American soil, we have the USA Patriot Act, Department of Homeland Security and the War on Terrorism, including Operation Enduring Freedom and the Iraqi War. Thousands of American lives have been lost since March 2003, when military forces unleashed the battle against Osama Bin Laden and his allies.
The reason for the sacrifice was the unimaginable death and destruction on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people died on U.S. soil in the terrorist attack.
For those us glued to our televisions that day, no need to recount the images, sounds and shock of that day.
The one positive of that day was the bond of all 50 states in the union. For one moment, we were truly united states. We hurt together. We prayed together. We rebuilt together. We stood back up together.
It’s amazing that just less than 20 years later, our country is so divided. I just hope it doesn’t take another unspeakable, unimaginable and unthinkable act to make us trust, love and understand each other again.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star. Contact him at (901) 433-9138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.