Past 10 years should be known as 'Snafu Decade'

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | 12:16 p.m. CST; updated 12:33 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 21, 2010

It started with the doomsday predictions of Y2K. Why were we ever so stupid to think that our computers being set to the wrong date would lead to the fall of Western civilization?

And then came the never-ending presidential election. September 11, 2001. The Enron scandal. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The war on a noun (terrorism). The Indian Ocean tsunami. The Harry Potter phenomenon. Fox News. Global warming. Movies about the global warming-induced apocalypse. The stock market crash. The burst of the housing bubble. The demise of the journalism industry …

I could continue. Maybe it’s because the only other decade I’m old enough to remember in full was the '90s — in which the most controversial occurrence was the president's affair in the Oval Office with someone who was not his wife — but the happenings in the first decade of the 21st century seem surreal. We bombed the moon. Seriously.

Which leads to the dilemma at hand today: What do we call this hypnologic decade? I was reminded this weekend by The New York Times that we, as a culture, have yet to bestow this decade a moniker: “You know the rules — coin a pithy, reductive phrase that somehow encapsulates the multitude of events, trends, triumphs and calamities of the past 10 years,” the New York Times wrote. For example: The Roaring Twenties, which I think is the only decade where one name stuck.

I have a suggestion: the Snafu Decade. The word “snafu” is a military acronym, standing for "situation normal, all fouled up," and is said to have originated during World War II. That "snafu" is a military term is also really appropriate, since much of the political upheaval in this current decade has been about war and the military. Since 2001, we have lived in a constant state of war that has no foreseeable end.

Nowadays, in more common parlance, it means “a badly confused or ridiculously muddled situation,” which I think perfectly embodies the public mood of the past decade. Not to mention, all those strange goings on I listed at the top have been rather snafu-like.

Looking at the past 10 years has seemed like a very bizarre dream, using whatever amount of hindsight I can muster while technically inside in the decade. Or it's seemed like a Salvador Dali painting, where objects are placed so out of context and in defiance of many of the laws of physics that they transcend any concept of “normal.”

This is a surreal dichotomy, where perceptions of everyday life are colored by the insanity of events outside it. My life — going to school, working for the Missourian and seeing my family at Thanksgiving — is situation normal. It’s everything else that’s all fouled up.

Forty-three days until 2010. Long live the Snafu Decade!

Erin K. O'Neill is a former assistant director of photography and current page designer for the Missourian. She is also a master's degree candidate at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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