OPINION: We won’t forget about 2017
So, this is it.
As I write my final column of the semester—my final column of 2017—I can’t help but feel both nostalgic and nauseated as I look back at the year’s historical events.
It was a year largely marked by Donald Trump’s erratic and theatrical first year of presidency, highlighted by 3 a.m. tweets and the removal of 15 members of his administration. It has been a presidency that can be described as, well, unprecedented. Never before have we seen a president wage such a strong war against the media, been able to rally so many people around a handful of causes or fundamentally change the way we perceive political movements.
And yes, that all happened in 2017—it was one year—even though it has felt like a decade since Barack Obama and Joe Biden were lame ducks in D.C.
This past year was also a year marked, or should I say, scarred, by the increasing political and social polarization of our nation. We saw white supremacists come out of the shadows, attempting to normalize their ideologies in the nation’s discourse; we witnessed radical anarchist groups react violently; we watched the news along with everyone else as we counted the number of people who were killed out of hate through mass shootings.
The fabric that was binding our society and the U.S. citizens together—the same fabric that was strengthening over decades as we progressed societally—was vigorously and suddenly torn apart. Now, we’re stuck with picking up the pieces.
And this isn’t the first time we’ve been through a particularly rough year, either. Part of the question comes down to how 2017 compares to 2016. I do not think the question should be framed in which one was better or worse, but rather how the events in 2016 led to the culmination of events in 2017.
The subtle rise in so-called “anti-establishment” ideals that was initially seen in the Brexit vote of 2016 transformed into white nationalists marching in Charlottesville this August. The popularization of “safe spaces” in U.S. college campuses in 2016 evolved into violent and disruptive protests over conservative speaker Ben Shapiro visiting UC-Berkeley. The birth of “fake news” in 2016 spiraled into the mass spread of biased misinformation.
Nearing the end of this marathon of a year, it is hard not to feel utterly fatigued with a lingering bad taste in our mouths. It’s tempting to want to erase much of 2017 from the history books and try again in 2018, but it’s extremely important we not do that.
Because just as it is important to point out what went wrong in 2017, it’s even more important to point out what we can learn from our society’s mistakes.
We have learned that racism and sexism are very real, very tangible problems that we face even today. Ignoring the problem is a large part of the problem itself.
We have learned that words—and tweets—matter. The whole “sticks and stones” phrase needs to be thrown out of the window. Trump, the media and other world leaders have proven in 2017 alone that their words can drastically affect the stock market, destroy someone’s reputation and even threaten nuclear warfare.
We have learned that we really are not safe, no matter where we are—whether it be on a sidewalk, at a concert, or in church.
Most importantly, we have learned that all of the problems we have contributed to in the past year are likely never to find solutions because we as a nation are too divided, too polarized, to ever compromise to find real solutions.
It seems bleak, I know. Maybe if everyone’s 2018 New Year’s resolution was to be a decent human being, we wouldn’t have these problems. But since people are sinful and unlikely to change their ways, we’re left wondering not only how we’re going to fix the problems we already have, but what mistakes we will make in the future.
And because I really don’t want to leave my last column of the year off on some sort of dismal cliff of no return, here’s three great things that came out of 2017:
- People are realizing sexual assault/harassment in the workplace is an actual problem in our country.
- Infamous Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe was removed from power after years of oppressing and slaughtering his own people.
- The solar eclipse was pretty cool.
Merry Christmas, everyone.