Look Back in Anguish 

It was the best of times ... wait, no, it wasn't.

2002 was a brutal teeth-rattler of a year. It truly was the best of times, the worst of times. Except without the best-of-times part. Everything turned fetid and funky. The world went haywire, as though we entered a bizzaro dimension.

Priests were horny, pilots were drunk, and our shadowy government had its own shadow government. We color-coded our fear. The war on terror was expanded to include anyone who ate at Shoney's, the "Dude, you're getting a Dell" dude got canned, and even Michael Jackson acted a tad peculiar at times.

We gobbled Cipro to fend off anthrax, and now we're lining up for smallpox vaccinations. Now, before we climb back into the handbasket bound for warmer climes, maybe we should squeeze in one final glance back at that twisted bitch, 2002.

President Bush became fodder for late-night comics when he failed to read the instructions on the back of a pretzel bag. But no one was laughing after he delivered a rousing State of the Union speech. Highlights included an unprecedented 10-minute break as the president crowd-surfed up to the bleachers and back. It was also a defining moment when he labeled Iraq, Iran, and North Korea an "axis of buttholes." The phrase was later modified at the insistence of network censors.

Unfortunately, before we could go all daisy-cutter on the rogue nations, Iran was forced to withdraw from the axis of evil due to a hamstring injury.

Instead of assigning AOE status to another country, the Bush administration used rotating substitutes to fill the vacancy, including Germany and Canada, depending on who was calling the president a "squinty moron" at any given time.

The winter Olympics went off without a hitch in Salt Lake City, thanks to increased security precautions. The only controversy occurred when two members of the Russian curling team were disqualified for banned substances. Instead of sweeping the ice with little brooms, they used Swiffer WetJets. The lemony-fresh scent gave them away.

By spring, the simmering sex-abuse scandal threatened to engulf the Catholic Church. It stemmed from the age-old quandary: how to protect vulnerable priests from seduction by cunning, hunky minors.

After meeting with Pope John Paul II, American cardinals and bishops crafted a plan to begin the healing process.

"If only the church had some kind of authoritative source," lamented Cardinal Bernard Law. "A book, perhaps, that offers guidance and spells out the differences between right and wrong. Something that can be taken as gospel. Unfortunately, no such book seems to exist."

The economy foundered for much of the year. The stock market went up and down like a whore's drawers. Companies crashed under waves of accounting irregularities. As we teetered on the brink of recession, the White House unveiled a far-reaching jobs program: They created a shadow government. Secret bunkers up and down the Eastern seaboard were staffed with mid-level employees from the executive branch. Nobody delivers streamlined efficiency and aggressive innovation like unsupervised civil servants who can't be fired.

Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer reassured a jittery American public. "Only after a nuclear holocaust cripples the nation will the shadow government step in. They will maintain essential federal functions such as scheduling shadow meetings with oil tycoons, collecting huge donations of shadow cash, and pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey."

After a summertime rise in shark attacks, experts recommended swimmers not enter the water while menstruating or immediately after having their arms gnawed to bloody stumps. They also discouraged the use of chum-based sunscreens and shiny jewelry, especially ankle bracelets engraved "Blow me, shark."

Five years after their deaths, Mother Teresa and Princess Diana were back in the news. Mother Teresa continued on the fast track to sainthood when the Vatican attributed a miracle to her. The only remaining stumbling block to the beloved nun's beatification is the persistent rumor she once killed a guy by locking him inside a gasoline-soaked Porta-John and toppling it into an active volcano in a Jackass-style stunt gone awry.

Following a high-profile trial, Diana's former butler revealed the princess never fully recovered after being dumped without explanation by the great love of her life, George "Goober" Lindsey.

Justin Timberlake dumped Britney Spears, claiming he wanted a girlfriend who focused less on a career and more on his wiener. Lisa Marie Presley married then divorced Nicolas Cage, saying she yearned for the stability and deliciously hot sex she had with her previous hubby, Michael Jackson.

And, to no one's surprise, Jackson was named Father of the Year, beating out Ozzy Osbourne and Robert Blake. During his acceptance speech he offered sage parenting advice: "Don't let younger children play with the Elephant Man's skeleton because small bones could pose a choking hazard. Administer a breathalyzer to Aunt La Toya before allowing her to babysit. And most importantly, never let a game of Got-Your-Nose get out of control."

Like all things horrid and painful, 2002 has to end sometime. Unfortunately, 2003 doesn't look to be much better. Yet there is a ray of hope. Because of impending wars, global warming, toxic pollution levels, and our own soaring obesity rates, there's an excellent chance we could all be dead by spring. Let's keep a happy thought.

Roger Naylor writes for AlterNet, where this article first appeared.

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