Arts & Culture

History’s Miseries

While browsing the New York Times online this morning over coffee, I noticed an interesting statement in their editorial about President Obama.  Talking about the crowd at Tuesday’s inauguration, the editorial staff wrote: "By the hundreds of thousands they came … Read More

By / January 22, 2009

While browsing the New York Times online this morning over coffee, I noticed an interesting statement in their editorial about President Obama.  Talking about the crowd at Tuesday’s inauguration, the editorial staff wrote: "By the hundreds of thousands they came from every part of a nation that has rarely been in such peril and yet is so optimistic about our new leader." 

Now, admittedly, times are tough.  Two major wars in the middle east, foreclosed houses and an economic crisis back home, not to mention the tragic deterioration of Amy Winehouse.  We’re certainly in a tighter spot than we’ve been in my lifetime, maybe even in my parents’ lifetimes.  But "a nation that has rarely been in such peril"?  Really?

While writing 11,002 Things to Be Miserable About, my brother Nick and I ended up spending a fair amount of time researching misery from the past.  A quick summary of some things to be miserable about from American history:

  • The Revolutionary War (okay, we won, but 25,000 people died first)
  • The devastation of Native American tribes by smallpox and other European diseases
  • Slavery
  • The Civil War (200,000 deaths in battle, and 400,000 more from disease)
  • Carpetbaggers who took advantage of the South during Reconstruction
  • "Separate but equal" policies and Jim Crow laws
  • World War I (116,000 U.S. casualties)
  • The Great Depression (unemployment rose to 23.9%, as compared to 7.2% today)
  • World War II (the deadliest military conflict in history, with 417,000 U.S. soldiers dead)
  • The Korean War (we tend to forget about this one, but there were 54,000 U.S. casualties)
  • The assassination of President Kennedy
  • The Vietnam War (almost 60,000 U.S. casualties)
  • ’80s fashions

Times are hard, but I think it’s impossible to argue that they’ve been a lot worse.  And yet America’s still here, still proud, still gathering together to celebrate our new leaders, still drinking cheap beer and eating bad hamburgers.  So I think we’ll be okay.

Lia Romeo, co-author of 11,002 Things to Be Miserable About, is guest blogging on Jewcy, and she’ll be here all week. Stay tuned.

Preview 11,002 Things to Be Miserable About, visit the book’s website, or check out book trailers and videos on YouTube.