I don’t have a crystal ball and haven’t thrown the I Ching, so I can’t really say what will happen. but Mark Bittman had an amusing column in yesterday’s New York Times about years ending in four. Bittman seems to be of the opinion that nothing much that is good happens during such years, but we can hope that he just has a selective memory.
Bittman begins with 1944, but I’ll add 1914. That was the year Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia to begin World War I. On the plus side, the Panama Canal opened and the Boston Braves won the World Series.
1944 Those of us who don’t remember this year are lucky; a soldier cited in Rick Atkinson’s brilliantly horrifying saga of the last two years of the war in Europe, “The Guns at Last Light,” quotes King Lear: “The worst is not, So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’ ” The end of the war was in sight; getting there was the trick, and millions were killed in the interval. Things have not been this bad since.
1954 If there was a golden era of United States foreign policy, it ended here, as Eisenhower warned against involvement in Vietnam while espousing the domino theory. Good: Joe McCarthy’s power began to ebb. Not good: The words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance.
1964 The last year of the baby boom was mind-blowing. In the 28 months beginning that January, Bob Dylan made five of the best albums of the era — and there were the Beatles.
Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison, and Lyndon Johnson single-handedly sent everyone into a tizzy by signing the Civil Rights Act, sending more “advisers” to Vietnam, talking about bombing North Vietnam and proposing the Great Society. Huh? The first anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and draft-card burnings took place. Pot smoking officially began. (Not really, but sorta.)
1964 was also the year my husband graduated from high school. I’ll call that a plus.
Skipping to 1994
Whoa: Not only did Nelson Mandela not spend his life in jail, but he became president. The Brady Law went into effect, and Bill Clinton signed the assault weapons ban. (It expired in 2004.) O. J. Simpson spurred a national obsession. Four bombers were convicted of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.
Reagan was implicated in the Iran-contra cover-up, but it seemed more important to torture the Clintons over a bad real estate investment. (Still, Paula Jones wasn’t the Republicans’ fault, was she?) Clinton fired Joycelyn Elders for discussing masturbation.
The first credit default swap was created. Nearly everyone in Rwanda became either a killer or a victim, or so it seemed. And there was that messy thing in “the former Yugoslavia.”
Netscape Navigator was released.
1994 was an important year for me. We got married and I moved to Boston. Thomas Menino was mayor but not yet The Mayor.
Which brings us to 2004.
2004 Barack Obama spoke at the Democratic convention and there seemed reason for hope; then John Kerry went windsurfing and W., incredibly, became president again (what were 62 million of us thinking?) several months after endorsing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which Massachusetts had already legalized. (By 2013, even Utah is on the right side of this issue.) W. also promised to improve education and access to health care; we all know how that worked out. Lance Armstrong won his sixth Tour de France; we all know how that worked out, too.
And also in 2004, the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years ending the mythical curse of Babe Ruth.
So, 2014. I know what I hope for: the Democrats retain control of the Senate and, at a minimum, creep closer to a majority in the House. I hope the ACA enrolls so many people who like their benefits that we don’t have to listen to Ted Cruz reading “green eggs and ham” again. I hope, though it seems unlikely, that we get tax and immigration reform. I hope that President Obama has a better year. And I hope everyone comes home safely from Afghanistan. I wish Marty Walsh all the best as he becomes mayor and I hope that Michelle Wu gives up her crazy idea of voting for Bill Linehan for City Council president and picks Tito Jackson instead. Most of all, I hope that all of us have a safe and healthy year.
- Contributing Op-Ed Writer: A Guide to Years Ending in 4 (nytimes.com)
- Imperfect predictions on the world in 2014 (macleans.ca)