Looking Forward to Looking Back

By Bruce Handy, a writer and deputy editor at Vanity Fair (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 05/01/07):

EVERY year anniversaries of significant historic events provide opportunities for scholars, pundits, bloggers and even less voluble Americans to reflect on the past as well as the present. In 2006, the news media marked the 100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the 50th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s first hits, the 20th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, the 5th anniversary of 9/11. Here’s a look ahead at what we’ll be looking back on in 2007.

Seventy-fifth anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election at the height of the Great Depression as the 32nd president of the United States (Nov. 8, 1932).

Today’s perspective: Nostalgia for era when presidents had big, bold, risky ideas that mostly worked out O.K.

60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the “color barrier” in Major League Baseball (April 15, 1947).

Today’s perspective: Is the pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka really worth the nine-figure Alex Rodriguez money he’s getting from the Red Sox?

60th anniversary of the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, which curtailed the ability of unions to strike (June 23, 1947).

Today’s perspective: “Unions?” ¿Que son esos?

50th anniversary of the launching of the first artificial satellite, the Soviet Union’s Sputnik, marking the dawn of the space age and prompting a huge investment in science education in this country (Oct. 4, 1957).

Today’s perspective: Public increasingly disenchanted with NASA because of fears that space shuttle launchings may scare angels or punch holes in heaven.

45th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, during which President John F. Kennedy and the Soviet premier, Nikita Kruschev, confronted each other over the latter’s shipment of nuclear missiles to Cuba (Oct. 14 – 28, 1962).

Today’s perspective: Nostalgia for era during which actual weapons of mass destruction were removed without resort to actual invasion; amusement, at least in Havana, that President Fidel Castro has outlasted not only Kennedy and Kruschev but also the Soviet Union itself, Pan Am, TWA, vinyl records and Woolworth’s.

40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ masterpiece “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (June 1, 1967).

Today’s perspective: Royalty checks keep Ringo from appearing on humiliating reality show.

40th anniversary of the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria (June 5-10, 1967).

Today’s perspective: Nostalgia for era when Middle East wars ended in less than a week.

40th anniversary of the No. 1 single “Somethin’ Stupid” by Frank and Nancy Sinatra reaching the pop charts (March 25, 1967).

Today’s perspective: Perfect “two birds with one stone” counterexample to cite when confronted by claims of baby boomer and greatest generation cultural superiority.

30th anniversary of Jimmy Carter’s pardoning of Vietnam War-era draft dodgers (Jan. 21, 1977).

Today’s perspective: Paved the way for the political careers of our last two presidents.

25th anniversary of the Falkland Islands war (March 19-June 14, 1982).

Today’s perspective: Nostalgia for era when wars ended in less than three months and only involved the British.

20th anniversary of Prozac’s introduction in the United States (Dec. 29, 1987).

Today’s perspective: Recent holiday gatherings went unusually well, don’t you think?

10th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death in a Paris car crash (Aug. 31, 1997).

Today’s perspective: Continuing affection for princess who, despite being mercilessly hounded by paparazzi, always managed to keep her underwear on in public.

10th anniversary of Ellen DeGeneres’s coming out (April 7, 1997).

Today’s perspective: Important milestone on the road to lesbian domination of daytime television.

5th anniversary of President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech (Jan. 29, 2002).

Today’s perspective: When Kim Jong-Il is brought before an international tribunal, no taunting him about his hair, O.K.?