2016 was a torrential shitstorm of a year, one rampaged by celebrity deaths, political madness, and unprecedented violence. From the deaths of Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman, and David Bowie to the resurgence of the alt-right and power-hungry tyrants like Trump to the bombing in Istanbul and mass shooting in Orlando, we’ve witnessed what many of us feel is the complete annihilation of liberty, hope, and security. As we approach 2017, it can be tempting to try and distance ourselves from the horrific things that have occurred. It’s tempting to turn a blind eye in the name of optimism, and convince ourselves that 2017 will be our chance to begin again. But if we’re going to get meta, 2016 isn’t over and it never will be. Time is a social construct. This year is only ending because we’ve fabricated an end to it. The reality is that all of the ugliness and violence of 2016 is still here, and it’s not going anywhere unless we do something about it.
In 2017, Donald Trump will officially become the 45th president of the United States. A man whose political platform was built upon racism, misogyny, ignorance, hatred, and fear will hold the highest office in the country. In 2017, states like Texas will continue to try and block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds. In 2017, white, cisgender men will be put on trial for sexual assault and other violent crimes and most likely walk away with nothing more than a slight blemish on their record. In 2017, Syrian civilians will be killed, terrorist acts will be committed, and human liberties across the globe will be ignored and denied. We can make as many memes about 2016 as we’d like, we can try to shrug the year off and pray things get better, but the reality is that 2016 has only set the stage for more horrific things to occur. What lies ahead has the potential to be so much worse than what we’ve had to endure this year.
In many ways, 2016 was the wake-up call many of us needed. This year many of us discovered that the United States really is “that racist”. We discovered that if people feel ignored or desperate enough that they will blindly follow anyone who promises to make things better. We discovered that privileged individuals will put said privilege before the needs of vulnerable and marginalized minorities. We discovered that the lives of children, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color are inherently worth less than the right to bear arms. Most importantly, we discovered that we cannot ignore the ugliness in the world and just hope that things will get better on their own.
I’m not an optimist, nor do I believe in New Year’s resolutions because I know myself well enough to say I’ll never follow through on them. But this year I think we all need to make a resolution—to be better. We need to promise to stay aware and informed, and to take the time to analyze if the media we’re exposing ourselves to is legitimate. We need to promise to stay empathetic, open-minded, and attentive, and we need to resist a political system that is ready to discriminate against those who are most vulnerable. We need to do more than just complain and make jokes, we need to be proactive in piecing together all of the things that are currently broken.
2017 won’t be better unless we will it to be.