What We (Hopefully) Learned From 2016
Hobbling away from 2016 is what I imagine being shot up on a borderline lethal dose of heroin and being shoved in front of a speeding golf cart that's being driven by Custer's ghost and flying down the halls of a childrens' hospital would be like. The whole thing was almost too surreal and unexpected to consolidate with reality. We spent 365 days going collectively insane on an unprecedented level, and we did it about nearly everything that happened this year. Everyone was frothing at the mouth all year long, and balanced and nuanced thinking was all but lost throughout. Where to even begin with a recap. I guess we should start at the beginning. But first we have to find it.
Maybe it's Harambe. You remember that fucking gorilla, right? Back in May, a clumsy child who would've greatly benefited from one of those leashes masquerading as a monkey backpack, fell into a gorilla enclosure at a Cincinnati zoo. You might argue that this event was nearly half way through the year, so it stands to reason that we have not been at one another's throats since the top of the year. Fair point. But I argue that this was the tipping point caused by a build up of social tensions, and is the first event of note in this respect.
We were already all charged up from the election march on both sides, and it seems that the killing of Harambe was just the excuse that we all needed to draw our blades. We'd had months of Trump, Cruz, and Carson trying to out crazy each other, yelling about grain silos and seeing who could whip out the biggest Bible. Then there was the battle on the left, which was another thing entirely. We had Hillary Clinton, who is historically corrupt and out of touch with the people, and Bernie Sanders, who resonated with millions of disenfranchised voters. But we'll get to all of them soon enough. Harambe was our excuse, and he's our first topic. So, swerving back to the point.
For those of you who aren't into memes and may have missed this one, Harambe's enclosure was breached by the aforementioned child, and the gorilla was killed when he grabbed the kid. This set off a frenzy. People were outraged at the zoo for killing the massive silverback, and other people were convinced that the kid's life was precious and had to be defended at all costs. It was an interesting display of the shift in the American viewpoint in regards to life. When a guy with a mouthful of cheeseburger is plugging away at the keyboard, incensed about the cruel treatment of animals, we're definitely in some odd times.
Of course, this was in the same era as unarmed citizens being gunned down by police, but the memes weren't as funny I guess. I'm not sure how much of that played a role in public concerns, but it's an interesting thing to chew on for a bit.
2016 started largely as the year of Black Lives Matter. It seems that all of these black people were getting tired of being shot to death without posing a threat to the public officials who were throwing bullets at them. Meanwhile, brilliant pundits like Bill O'Reilly and Tomi Lahren were artfully dodging facts and statistics to demonize the entire group. While Papa Bear was sure to serve his audience the stats about how violent black people are based on arrest records, Lahren just aggressively said 'Bud' every 12 seconds, and couldn't understand what all of these black people were whining about. O'Reilly seemed to miss the point that using statistics generated by police while 'investigating' accusations of police misconduct is more flaccid than his audience, Lahren forgot about critical thinking altogether, spewing idiocy all over the airwaves, and relying on the creeky, chemically induced erections of 70 year old white men to ensure that her career could squeak out a few more years. Not a strong showing by either.
One of the brighter notes of this year actually came out of that same topic. Dozens of pro athletes sacrificed millions of endorsement dollars by taking a knee during The National Anthem to protest the disparate treatment of black people by police. It was encouraging to a lot of Americans to see so many people with a powerful platform stand in solidarity with the voiceless. Unsurprisingly, a great deal of other people lost their shit entirely. They insisted that the protesters were disrespecting everyone who fought and died for their freedoms by sitting out our country's theme song. The irony, of course, is that by protesting they were actually exercising that very freedom. Oh, and we also got to see the lesser known verse about crushing the 'hireling slave' that's in the tune. I wonder how black people could object to a song like that...
On the subject of protests, Standing Rock became a battleground for the very real fight between citizens and corporate greed. The Sioux in the area began a protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline that was routed under their drinking water, and the rest of the country actually paid attention for once. The land was given to the Sioux in a treaty that was being ignored (shocking), and no one in power was taking up the fight. Thanks to the efforts of the water protectors however, it became an impossible story to ignore. Hopefully that national focus will hold since that fight is far from over.
On a bi-partisan note, I think that most people can agree that 2016 came for our heroes in a big way. The amount of notable deaths was steady and daunting throughout the year. It seems like The Grim Reaper made a New Year's resolution the year before to get out there and mingle with the prominent! We lost everyone from Leonard Cohen to Carrie Fisher (and her mom Debbie Reynolds the next day) one of my personal lifelong heroes Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, etc. Hell, I could blow my whole word count for this article just listing the names of famous people who died in the 12 month period that we're all hauling ass away from at full speed. Hopefully there won't be any last minute grabs.
Ok. I've put this off long enough. The god damn horror show of an election that crippled any reasonable person's remaining faith in humanity. Ugh... Here we go.
Following the presidential race in 2016 was a battle of pure endurance. The main thing that made this election year so wildly different from others was the candidates themselves. In previous elections we've just followed whichever shade of milktoast we agreed with more than others. To be fair, there was considerable fervor in 2008 when we still thought Obama was a revolutionary progressive, but that faded fairly quickly after he took office.
The Republicans were the most ridiculous this year, so let's start with them.
First off, there seemed to be no end to the amount of presidential hopefuls on the right. We had Ben Carson making up wild stories about his chaotic childhood in between micro-naps, Ted Cruz doing his unflinching impression of a baby possum who just found its mom dead, and Rand Paul interrupting his handful of good ideas with videos of him running a chainsaw through the tax code. All of this psychotic pageantry actually helped make a third Bush White House seem like a decent alternative.
Then there was Trump. The eventual president elect who had some sort of magical technique for camouflaging his bullshit from millions of voters who were duped into thinking he was the candidate who was 'telling it like it is.' Rand Paul has a great quote about Trump's methodology, calling it “truth telling without the truth.” He spoke like a populist, acted like the kid in middle school who was a prick until someone punched him in the mouth, at which point he would seek the nearest grown up for consolation, and then became the fucking president. Jesus...
It's not that hard to see why he won though. He got elected because he acted like a disgusting piece of shit, not despite it. People were so desperate to believe that they had a chance to shake up politics as usual, that what form that took was secondary to the hope itself. Unfortunately for the voters who went for Trump because they thought he was going to stick it to the system, he is currently stacking his cabinet with every banker, oil tycoon, and big donor to his campaign that'll accept a phone call. Whoops.
On to the left! It was a battle royale between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and that other guy who showed up for a minute.
Hillary Clinton needs no introduction. She's part of that core political group of elites. You know? That one that we're all tired of? In a different era, she absolutely would've been our first female president. She's polished, has the right non-answers to every question, and pant suits that are untouchable! The very things that kept her from winning in a landslide are what have served her political climb for decades.
Then there was the liberal dreamboat Bernie Sanders. This largely unknown Vermont Senator took the country by storm with his radical ideas of using the already massive wealth of the richest country in the history of the world to benefit it's citizens.
Bernie was the antidote to the Clinton machine. He was genuine, unpolished yet experienced, and wore clothes that most of us paupers could afford.
Alas, the DNC, Clinton, and conservatives from coast to coast, made sure to point out how pie in the sky his ideas about caring for the sick and offering higher education to low income students who had the intelligence for such endeavors, but lacked the purse, really were. I mean, taxing corporations and trimming our military budget to better ourselves as a society?! The audacity.
In all fairness (I guess) Clinton did win the popular vote by nearly 3 million, she just did it in the wrong states. So, as with Lil' Bush, liberal cowardice and the Electoral College have conspired to ensure the appointment of another unhinged lunatic to the top office in the land.
While many of us march into 2017 battered, bruised, depressed, and fearful of the repercussions of the events of the year before, there is another alternative. There's a latter camp that you can join. You can treat 2016 as a crash course, jumping from it's clutches with a new understanding of the world around you. We saw so many examples of how other lives are lived, that you have to actively participate in your own ignorance at this point. We have video after video of police shootings that massively contradict their official statements, footage of peaceful protesters (Standing Rock) being hit with water cannons in subfreezing temperatures, and we've seen the output of the disenfranchised voter. All we can do now is hold the future accountable to the lessons of the recent past. Otherwise this tumultuous year really was nothing but shit.