I am happy and buying Champagne, and enjoying the fact that I am lucky enough to be alive for something so huge and extraordinary as the changing of the millennium. I actually think it makes us all more important in that it makes us historical figures: We are now, forever, the people of the earth who experienced and reacted to the second great millennial marker since Western history began.
But after my delight, I find myself mildly preoccupied with a thought and a question. The thought is that the coming New Year ends in the numbers 00. As in Oh, oh. Or, Uh-oh. This leaves me a little nervous around the edges. Does it you? They seem odd, those two zeroes, like something old-fashioned. I imagine rocking on a porch in my old age, in 2027, and bragging to the young people: “Why, back in ’00 we had to type to send e-mail. You couldn’t just have a thought and say, ‘Send.’” The 00 also seems like something that isn’t quite there. A few months ago a man I know was giving his credit-card number over the phone and when the person asked him the expiration date, he looked at the 00 and said, “It isn’t there!” He thought the company had forgotten to put it in.
We’ll get used to 00 and get used to a decade that I guess we’ll call The Oh’s. But before we do, there’s the question I mentioned. And that is: What kind of New Year’s resolution can you come up with that is big enough for a new millennium? Losing five pounds, learning the tango, joining a book dub—these aren’t worthy. They don’t have enough size.
As I think about this, I am going to open my Champagne early.
There. It is bubbling in my hand. It is fresh, I can hear it as much as taste it, and it smells like something joyous. I will have a glass as I ponder the fact that focusing on yourself at a time like this seems silly, small-time. I’d rather think of something big and important, like America. Like resolutions for my country. No, resolutions by my country.
I can think of a few right away:
I would like to see Americans vow never again to say, “I’d like to share,” but say instead, “I’d like to tell you.” And we will never again say, “Do you have an issue?” but instead, like a normal human, ask, “Do you have a problem?” And never in the next century will we use the dreadful buzzword closure, unless we’re talking about doors.
But while these may be true and maybe even necessary, they’re not big enough. Here are some that are. I would like to see, I think, America make these resolutions:
I resolve that I will always honor the Constitution’s teachings on the distance between church and state, but I further resolve to stop turning that distance into animosity. Church and state are not enemies, but friends. They live in different houses but share the same block, and in that happy neighborhood all will be allowed to show and celebrate the signs and symbols of their faith and belief. Put the crêche in the town square. Put the Ten Commandments on the courthouse door.
I resolve that I will act each day on the knowledge that our physical environment is a great thing we can never replace, and so before I build an office complex or pave a highway r will make sure I’m harming nothing and making things prettier.
I resolve to remember that our culture is an important part of our environment too. And so I will create entertainments that will inspire and challenge the young rather than hurt them.
I resolve that the presidency of the United States become again a place of trust and respect, with a man or woman of whatever party leading us not for personal glory but for our nation’s benefit.
And I resolve, finally, to remind my people every day that with their rights come responsibilities, and that the first is: We must be good to one another. And be nice to neighbors. And help people in trouble. Amen.
I just realized this isn’t a resolution but a prayer. And just as I wrote that, I thought: That’s exactly how I should begin the new age, with a prayer. I pray you do the same.
And that these prayers be as big as the times, and as big as all of our needs.