It seems impossible that one decade has already passed in the 21st century. Though it was marked with the horror of Sept. 11 and awful war and terrible economics, these past 10 years ran faster than a super track star in the 100-meter dash. Perhaps our ever-more technological times, with rapid communication and the concentration of anything held to a few seconds make the clock spin so rapidly. Sitting by candle and anticipating the early milking of the cow gave more time to reflect.
But progress is supposed to be good for us – it is light against the darkness, a chance to better lives, to bring ease. Progress has accomplished all that, our history shows, but in its name some have profited more than others. In this new century, special interests that seek money without giveback responsibility and political influence without an adjustment for all the people's needs largely steer growth. While most of us take the train ride – for it is the history of our nation that we chase a new frontier – we’re seated more toward the caboose than the locomotive. We can’t see the tracks ahead.
There are more people – rich ones – in first class these days, and they can see just fine. There are more of the good folk back at the end of the train, too, grateful for a ride though the engine’s cinders may fly through their windows. There is the hope, still, that on the next run, they may move closer to the locomotive. The passengers in the middle, those in second class, are no longer numerous, and it’s more than a pity, for it was their ever-growing ranks and the appetite for middle-class living which built the railroads. And the output of the factories. And the need for housing, the roads, etc. - all progress, surely.
The speed of the 21st century is so rapid that we can’t see who is on the train, nor have we bothered to care. Americans have taken progress for granted for decades now, in a steady drive since 1945. If we can obtain cell phones and flat-screen TVs and an equity loan or a tax rebate or two to buy them, and if our days pass comfortably enough, we won’t look at the clock and notice it is close to midnight. That’s for another day, yet that dawn may not come. We don’t see horrible war, for it is not in our yards. We don’t hear the gold leaving Fort Knox to pay for a bigger and bigger national debt. We don’t fathom that more and more of us are not on the train to progress any more.
What was the wind that just passed through the station? Was it just a decade in modern speed?
Maybe we’ll get to reflect on it all, even by candle.