This was the decade where we learned that what you expect often doesn't happen, and (I'm sorry to say) that you can't necessarily trust the things you thought you could trust.
It started with the Y2K mess. The world was going to end on Jan. 1, 2000, remember, as all the computers crashed? All you people who think the world will end in 2012 when the Mayan calendar runs out, keep that in mind. You can't ignore your problems because the world will end in 2012, because it won't.
Thought you could trust a corporation's accounting to tell you what shape the company was in, and could trust the auditors to find and expose any problems? Enron took care of that, and Arthur Andersen. I used to work for an accounting firm, and even us low-level non-partner-track types were aware of the tremendous pressure on the partners to keep the really big accounts happy.
Thought that you had to be an intelligent, experienced, thoughtful and talented person to be elected President of the United States? Look at the 2000 election. If you can stand to. I never did understand why everybody thought it was great that Bush went through Yale with a "gentleman's C." And I don't even want to consider Sarah Palin.
Thought that the U.S. would never again be attacked on its home soil? 'Nuff said. If somebody wants to kill you badly enough that he's willing to die to do it, it's very hard to stop him.
Thought that the U.S. government wouldn't take the country to war on a faked-up lie? That's how we got into Iraq. What bothered me about Iraq was not just the one lie - it was a whole series of lies, each more implausible than all the rest, trotted out to justify the situation as each previous lie was exposed.
Thought that "the government" would step in and help people when a natural disaster hit? Ask the people who lived in New Orleans. We're on our own, folks, especially if we are poor and not white.
Thought that housing prices would rise forever? Not when the market decides they're overpriced. Who is "the market?" Nobody knows, but it sure changed its mind last year.
Finally, thought that bankers were staid, conservative types who made money lending on a 2 point spread to people who didn't really need it? The last year and a half blew that idea away; these guys were gambling at the high-roller table, and with borrowed money, too. The people in casinos putting their whole wad on number 17 were actually taking lower risks.
It's a strange new world, folks, and the best you can do is stay informed, stay alert, and question your assumptions. The thing you take for granted is the thing that'll turn around and bite you.