2016 has been a dark year in politics. Trump was voted into office, which on its own would make this year’s political climate difficult to swallow.
The fact that nearly half of the US voting population decided to vote for a candidate who has made hateful and degrading statements about women, Mexicans, Black people, Muslims, Jews, disabled people and POWs (who put together encompass well over half of the population of the USA) is unfathomable. To add insult to injury, Trump is only president due to an archaic quirk of the electoral system in which the popular vote can be disregarded.
This was also the year of Brexit. The campaigns on both sides were terribly and disingenuously fought; politicians have seized the result as proof that the public favour an agenda which the government has no mandate to carry out, and Britain stands more divided than ever. I, as a remain voter, resent those who voted leave – even if they aren’t racists – for depriving me of the rights afforded to me by EU membership. Leave voters appear to think democracy means if you lose a vote, you have no right to an opinion. Both Brexit and Trump’s election have vindicated racists and xenophobes, leading to an increase in attacks on minorities in both countries. Politics shows no immediate signs of improvement. The last couple of months have seen a referendum in Italy that became almost solely about Renzi’s presidency, and a very narrow loss for a far right presidential candidate in Austria.
2016 has been a dark year, filled with violence. In the UK, the MP Jo Cox was murdered in a political attack by a neo-Nazi supporter of apartheid, the BNP and the KKK on 6th June. On 12th June a homophobic attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida killed 49 people. This was the most deadly terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11. The US has also seen continuing violence perpetrated by the police against unarmed Black victims. In the Philippines, the new draconian president Duerte has promised that tens of thousands of criminals would be killed and actively encouraged people to murder anyone they suspected of drug possession, offering a bounty for kills. In Myanmar, as Rohingya Muslims are slaughtered by the military, they are unable to seek asylum in neighbouring Bangladesh. In Syria, the violence continues and Aleppo in particular has been terribly hit this year with its population trapped and starving as bombs fall around them. This violence seems unrelenting and unstoppable.
2016 has also been notable for the deaths of many distinguished and creative individuals, many of whom were tragically youthful. I don’t wish to list them for fear I will miss some out. Needless to say, there have been enough celebrity deaths this year that I imagine everyone has felt loss of someone they admired this year, and loss at the sheer volume of talent gone from the world. 2017 may see fewer famous and accomplished individuals die (though of course we cannot know) but it won’t bring back those that we lost in 2016.
2017 will most likely be a dark year too. I have heard many people say that they can’t wait for this year to be over as if everyone in the world wakes up on 1st January eternally changed. Why should the arbitrary pacing of the end of this solar cycle and the beginning of the next change anything? The decline of liberalism rages on. Marine Le Pen could conceivably become president of France in 2017 and let us not forget that Brexit and Trump aren’t standalone events but eras in British and US politics. Negotiations to leave the EU will begin in 2017. The freedom of movement, ability to appeal to a court that can’t be overruled by parliament, and free access to Paris museums we still have will almost certainly be lost. Trump is not currently the President. In 2017, this will not be the case. Meanwhile, terrorism and war and state-sponsored violence show no signs of stopping.
2017 will probably be just as bad as 2016, if not worse. When people say that they can’t wait for this year to be over, it sounds defeated – as if we have no control over how 2017 will turn out, how it will be remembered. Hope isn’t enough. If 2017 is not to be a repeat of the previous year, we must take action to make it better. Even then, I cannot honestly say I believe that liberalism and tolerance can be saved from a majority that appears to despise them.
Featured Image Credit- WikiCommons