Hype, history & a new year

As the new year and new century dawns, we have much to be grateful for, not the least of which is that all the yammering about the millennium has finally reached its own End Time. From the interminable impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton to the false apocalypse of Y2K to the endless hype that gave us Talk magazine, the bullish stock market, and the promise of a Donald Trump presidential bid, 1999 threatened not only to usher in a new century but to last a century as well. Looking back, a hard-earned obscurity is all that can really be hoped for when it comes to the likes of Monica Lewinsky, Ken Starr, the Brooklyn Museum’s "Sensation" show, Bob Dole’s efforts to peddle Viagra, and Newt Gingrich’s impersonation of an outraged moralist. (Feel free to add your least favorite names to this list.) Still, most of what was with us last year-and the years before-will accompany us into the new century. No one knows what the future holds, except that it holds a good deal of the past.

The recent debates among the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, for example, suggest that the on-again, off-again dalliance between religion and politics may heat up during this year’s race for the White House. There is little in principle that is worrisome about the forthrightness with which the Republican candidates have proclaimed the importance of their religious views in shaping their political convictions-...

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