I entered this year with hope. Back in January, you could still call Donald Trump’s campaign for presidency a joke. It was still okay to laugh at him, to tell a joke at his expense, to share that meme about his hair, without fearing that you would have just been providing free advertising. There was an air of “this will never happen; isn’t it funny that this is even a thing?!”
2016, the phrase “President-Elect Donald Trump” was a shocking twist on the level of stepping in dog poo on your way to an interview. For this, I’m taking off one star.
It could just be that I’m reaching that age where I know the names of celebrities and artists so their deaths affect me more, but this year we lost more cultural icons than I’m comfortable with. David Bowie, Harper Lee, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder and so many others.
For taking the original Willy Wonka, Jareth the Goblin King and the mind behind “To Kill a Mockingbird,” from us, 2016, I’m deducting another star.
And there’s another thing we need to discuss. Justice and injustice, 2016. Let’s just straighten this out.
The forest fires that have been happening all over East Tennessee and the wild fire that has destroyed a lot of Gatlinburg? That wasn’t okay, 2016. Those people need their homes and businesses, those animals need their forest and everyone should be able to see the beauty of the forested Smoky Mountains.
Ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Turner who sexually assaulted someone and only served half of his six month sentence? That wasn’t okay either. I hope future years are more dedicated to the rights of victims, to carrying out punishment of perpetrators of sexual assault and, even better, to preventing these crimes before they happen.
I’m hesitant to even type the name: Harambe. Everything surrounding this was not okay, 2016. From the incident itself to the internet memes to the votes Harambe got in the Presidential Election.
And the other gorilla that visited ETSU’s Borchuck Plaza to disrupt a peaceful protest and got our university a lot of unfavorable national attention. Let’s hope nothing like this ever happens again.
For all of these controversies and others, I’m taking away another star. 2016, you knew these things were wrong, but you still let them happen.
That’s right. You get two out of five stars, 2016. If this were a class, you would be failing. You would have to retake it in the spring and hope your new teacher is more lenient.
But you don’t get a second shot. This year only happens once. And 2017 will only happen once too. And no matter how the year goes, we have to live with it, because most of these things are things that we could not have changed.
Less than 50 percent of Americans voted for Trump. Only about 55 percent showed up to the polls at all, the lowest voter turnout rate in twenty years. Despite the best efforts of many pro-voting organizations, we can’t make more people vote. And we can’t control whom they’re going to vote for. (Nor should we.)
We can’t stop our cultural icons from dying. We can’t always ensure the safety of our homes, businesses, wildlife and forests from natural disasters. We can only make the best of these situations.
However, we can try to be better. We can aim for a more respectful, inclusive and just society, but we have to work together. This next year especially, we need to come together to make sure that everyone is fairly treated and to ensure 2017 is a sequel to 2016, instead of a remake.