Country singer-turned actor Mac Davis once sang that happiness for him "was Lubbock, Texas, in my rear view mirror."
Of course, by song's end Davis changed his cynical appraisal of the West Texas city, and concluded that his hometown was worthy of respect and adoration, not snarky derision.
I can't say the same thing about this downer of a decade — the 2000s cannot be in my rear view mirror quickly enough.
For me, 2000 stands alone in my lifetime as the worst of the worse. There have been bad decades before — all 10-year increments have their triumphs and tragedies — but this decade would have tested the will of Job.
Lest we forget, we began the 2000s facing the end of civilization as we know it — the near-calamity that was known as Y2K. And 10 years later we conclude this period having stared down the end of civilization as we know it — the global economic meltdown that nearly flat lined our country and many others with it.
In between these dispiriting bookends: the greatest terrorist attack on U.S. soil on 9/11; two wars, which still haven't ended; the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster; the loss of nearly 300,000 lives from Sri Lanka to Indonesia in the southeast Asian tsunami and a thousand more deaths in the Gulf Coast following the ravages of Hurricane Katrina; anthrax attacks to panic us while warnings of bird flu and swine flu epidemics seem like something from a Stephen King novel.
And through all this disparaging news, where were the heroes to lead us through these turbulent times?
In politics, both major political parties were rocked by sex scandals. The Catholic Church spent millions in reparation to childhood victims of decades of sex abuse by its priests. Athletes used performance-enhancing drugs to gain advantages over rivals — and then told us they never used such things.
Poster boy role models like Kobe Bryant and most recently Tiger Woods fell by the wayside, each rocked by scandal and personal failures.
You had to land a doomed jetliner in the Hudson River, a la pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, or march bravely up the staircase of a burning skyscraper in the line of duty to be called a hero.
The 2000s, to me, are years best forgotten, a period of time spoken of only by historians, whose job it is to examine and analyze. Perhaps, aided by a detached sense of purpose and unencumbered by the moments, such a student of history will have the ability to eloquently recast this decade in a more favorable light.
This decade isn't helped by the fact that we never settled on a proper name for it. You can't seriously say Zero Zeros in public without eliciting laughs. While the "2000s" sounds more like a high score or the numerical designation of a fitness device — the Trim and Shape 2000 — than a decade.
If there is a lining of hope from the past 10 years, it's that the decade of doom and gloom will leave us as better people.
Suffering, as many religions teach us, does wonders for the soul; it builds character. How can you truly appreciate the beauty of the world without knowing its ugliness? How can you fully embrace the light without living in darkness?
As a species, we're a resourceful lot. As little tolerance as we often display for one another, we favor failure even less. We live for the moments of victory, when we push the flag pole high into the air even as bombs are dropping around us.
We'll learn from our mistakes. We usually do. Even as we stumble out of the gate into 2010 and beyond, we'll be mindful of the wreck of 10 years we leave behind. We'll hope to soar in the years ahead, while occasionally settling for a leap or two forward when necessary.
Optimism is an increasingly rare commodity in this age, but it's a key ingredient to a good life. Without faith in our future, we're left only with the sorrows and failures of today.
So let us not focus so much on what we're leaving behind: The 2000s really are a decade best turned over to history. Instead, let us fully embrace the future as a time full of wonderful possibilities and, as our President said, "the audacity of hope."
Contact Kirk Baird at