While browsing the Charlottesville public library’s basement book sale, I came across a history of the first Gulf War. Bush was president; Cheney, Powell, and Wolfowitz had leading roles; US troops were in Iraq; Iran sought to defend or extend its influence; etc. I had also recently finished a seminar in post-WWII German drama with Dr. Renate Voris at UVA and kept thinking about her discussion of Benjamin’s angel of history, in which she urged us to consider that when authors turned to historical material, they were often prompted by something in their own present.
1991: Bush was president; Cheney, Powell, and Wolfowitz had leading roles; US troops were in Iraq amid rebellions mainly in the south and north of the country; tensions were high with Iran; the US was concerned with foreign terrorism and foreign wars and would soon be blindsided by domestic bombings; the economy was wobbling.
Enter 2007 and hit repeat.
Was anything different about 1991? Yes.
Spring 1991: Pearl Jam’s Ten and Nirvana’s Nevermind were on the way, though Michael Jackson still held great sway. Young adults hesitated to work for large corporations; anyone interested in saving and expressing his soul pursued non-profit employment at worst. American Psycho was about to rattle many nerves. Gays and lesbians could be fired from national intelligence employment for their sexual orientation, as they were deemed more susceptible to blackmail and other security risks. The salary at grade 7, step 6 for federal employment was about $24,000. Georgia (SSR) voted to secede from the USSR, and Germany was riven East and West but on the brink of reunification with Gorbachev’s approval. The Stasi had crumbled. Detlev Rohwedder would be assassinated by the Red Army Faction for supposedly betraying the people in his attempts to help privatize the East Germany economy. Bin Laden wasn’t yet exiled from Saudi Arabia. The president Bush was father, not son. Timothy McVeigh hadn’t yet returned home, and David Koresh was largely unknown, unlike Easy E (Eric Wright) of NWA, who had just joined the Republican Senatorial Inner Circle after donating $12,500 to the party. The Lubavitcher sect in Brooklyn expected the Messiah to arrive by September 9. Kitty Kelley released her unflattering biography of Nancy Reagan. The greenhouse effect was understood in its basic elements, though the ozone hole seemed the more imminent danger. The Tea Party was a historical event in Boston. The US population of 249 million was 7.9% foreign born, higher than it had been in many decades, and the American militia movement was on the rise.
In two weeks, “The Waste Land” as revision/repetition, but before then 1) how do you remember or imagine the 1990s; and 2) how did 2007 compare to 1991?