December 31, 2016

Goodbye to 2016


2016 sure has been one hell of a year, hasn't it? For those of us living in the U.S., I suppose the big story would probably have to be the unexpected election of Donald Trump and the many side stories related to it (e.g., the failure of our mainstream news media, the refusal by many on the left to learn anything from the election that might help them perform better next time). But most of all, there is the crippling fear about what happens next. Will Trump prove to be "literally Hitler," as many continue to claim on social media? Will he place George Takei in an internment camp immediately, or will this take at least a few weeks to transpire? Will this be the last December that atheists are free not to say "merry Christmas" if we don't want to? Nobody knows, and that is part of what makes it so terrifying.

We've certainly had bad years before. 2001 comes to mind as a particularly bad year. At the end of many bad years, we've been able to conclude the year with at least some hope that the next year would be better. I'm not sure we can do that this time. The thing about Trump and all the anxiety around what he'll do is that we're going to be facing it throughout 2017 too. For those of you who are upset about your next president (and come January 20, he will be your president whether you want to admit it or not), it is not like there is any reason to think that 2017 will be much better than 2016 (even though America will be great again). Setting Trump aside for a moment and ignoring the mounting evidence that he has neither the interest nor the ability to govern effectively, many of the people with whom he is surrounding are worrisome to say the least. They'll be here next year too, only with far more power than they have now.

Perhaps you are clinging to the hope that the Democrats will grow a spine in 2017, stand up to the Trump administration, and do to him what the Republicans did to President Obama. I wish I could join you in that hope. The problem is that I have yet to see the Democrats function as an effective opposition party. Just look at how they rolled over for President Bush on Iraq and then how they refused to do something as basic as hold him accountable for war crimes. As much as I'd like to think that it will be different this time around, I am skeptical.

Maybe we will see the anti-Trump resistance movement some are hoping for turn into something viable in 2017. I suppose this is possible; however, anger itself is not going to be enough. One of the things the anti-Trump forces are going to need eventually is a suitable candidate to challenge him politically. I saw something the other day that I sincerely hope was just "fake news" suggesting that Hillary Clinton might run again in 2020. After throwing up in my mouth, I decided that this had to be someone's idea of a joke. But it does at least raise the question of who the Democrats might run against Trump in 2020. Not surprisingly, a poll conducted in early December by Public Policy Polling suggests that Democratic voters have little idea of who they'd like to see in 2020 (although Joe Biden is in the lead).

Now forget all about Trump, and look to the U.K. and Europe. They have long a beacon of reason for those of us in the U.S. who cannot believe how many of our neighbors are puzzled by the continued existence of monkeys. In the aftermath of Brexit and another round of terrorist attacks (which had nothing to do with Islam), right-wing nationalism appears to be gaining ground in many countries. With elections coming up in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, the future of the EU seems anything but certain. What is far more certain is that the terrorist attacks will continue, and open border policies will be challenged. It is not that there is no good news coming out of this region, but it is getting increasingly difficult to ignore the signs of growing discontent or to imagine that they will necessarily improve in 2017.

Is there anything we can be sure of as we look to 2017? I am reasonably sure that we will experience additional terrorist attacks around the world that some on the left will deny have anything to do with Islam. I am reasonably sure that the U.S. will remain mired in endless wars around the globe. I am also reasonably sure that political tribalism and the resulting polarization of our citizenry will get worse, fueled by the perpetual outrage machine known as social media. And sad to say, I am positive that at least a few of our cherished celebrities will die. As we near the end of 2016, I think I am struck most by what I do not find myself saying: "I'm sure 2017 will be much better."

H/T to jobsanger