2016 was a rough year for everything but sports

The year is over, thankfully


What a mediocre year for everything but sports.

The year feels extra-long because many people start their “Horrible Things Calendar: 2016” with the shooting of Harambe, a gorilla in the Cincinnati Zoo that gained national fame after being shot dead.

That happened in late May, almost halfway through the year.

This is the first year's end when I feel that, collectively, the nation feels off-kilter. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’m reminded of Jimmy Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” speech in 1979.

One passage sounds just as true now, almost 40 years later.

“As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.”

It was a rough year.

Five months before the “drama” of the Harambe shooting, an armed militia occupied a wildlife refuge in Oregon, refusing to surrender to authorities for over a month.

That was just an appetizer for what 2016 had in store.

The nation reeled from the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a popular gay bar that was targeted by a man fueled by hate and rage. He took 49 lives before police took his own. Regular people just out on a regular night suffered in the deadliest terror attack since 9/11.

We mourned the loss of police officers in Dallas, ruthlessly targeted and gunned down by a veteran angered by recent shootings of black men by police. The police were keeping peace around a non-violent protest before they were shot down without reason or remorse.

We endured a seemingly endless election cycle which mocked not only our system of democracy, but also ourselves. We participated in the biggest misinformation feeding frenzy since the days of yellow journalism, and we did so gleefully because it was fun to watch.

Through that, we’ve seen the bar for what is considered “presidential” fall so low that if we could make a tie small enough to fit a singular atom, it’d probably have a shot at running in 2020.

This, of course, has led to the election of an unpredictable wildcard, fueled by promises to “drain the swamp” while installing the most crony Cabinet we’ve seen since Reconstruction.

Unfortunately, this man was a polarizing figure for a polarizing time, helping us to label and isolate one another in a time when we needed to come together the most.

People who are worried about simple things, like immigration or health premiums, voted for Donald Trump. People who felt differently voted for Clinton. Unfortunately, in these trying and divisive times, we’ve called everyone who voted for Trump a racist bigot and anyone who voted for Clinton a crooked shill.

I don’t even remember what we all started arguing about.

I've talked with friends, family, classmates and coworkers, and the prevailing theme seems to be: "Man, I'm over this." 

Still, Carter's speech makes it seem like we are reliving the past:

"The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual."

Of course, problems weren’t limited to our shores.

The United Kingdom voted narrowly to exit the European Union, a decision that has far-reaching consequences in the geopolitical landscape of Europe. Many economists think this is a bad idea and could overall be negative to the U.K.

The war in Syria raged on, displacing and killing more and more civilians every day while providing a breeding ground for radical terrorism.

Bombs in Brussels and a truck in France took more lives in the name of the Islamic State.

We’ve seen it all: Carbon in the air reach points unseen in human history, terror attacks in airports, growing unrest at home – and we’re left with an unpredictable idea of the future.

I’m still optimistic, and I always believe the next year will be better than the last. 2017 doesn’t have a lot it needs to do to be better than 2016, but there’s much we can do to make it better.

When you go back to wherever you’re from over the holidays, reflect on the year. Take it in, because it’s almost over.

Next year will be better.

Reach the columnist at cjwood3@asu.edu or follow @chriswood_311 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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