“2016 was a terrible year”.
It’s something you likely heard from your friends, read on the internet, or even saw on television in the past few weeks. As December drew to a close, brewing popular displeasure boiled into full uproar, and many Americans suddenly came to the conclusion that 2016 simply sucked. Angry Facebook posts, holiday arguments, and cynical TV shows all voiced extreme displeasure for the year that was.
While internet trends are often tempting to latch onto, one of hatred for 2016 carried an undeniable amount of weight. The year was marred by terror attacks, horrific gun violence, disease outbreaks, a string of celebrity deaths, the war in Syria, and of course, the debacle that was the presidential election. The last few weeks saw the loss of icons George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, and an unprecedented deterioration of the transition set to occur in the White House. It was a depressing end to an equally depressing 366 days.
When considering the condemnation of this past year, however, one must remember that the “campaign” against 2016 consists primarily of banter by internet users, most of whom are under the age of 35. Though the millennial generation may feel as if 2016 was indeed awful, its members lack the perspective necessary to make a truly valid argument. Those born after 1980 have enjoyed relative international stability and incredible technological advancements. Ask someone who lived through the Great Depression or World War II to name the worst year of their life, and 2016 would probably not come up.
Let us also not forget the great things 2016 brought us. It was an incredible year if you were a sports fan, with amazing finishes in March Madness, the NBA Finals, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and the World Series. Despite a grim environmental forecast for 2017, the year could well be considered a success for earth-lovers, with the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement and the victory of protesters at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. 2016 brought breakthroughs in nanotechnology, which has positive implications for medicine and engineering alike. In August, astronomers discovered a planet orbiting the star closest to the sun which could potentially host life. Most of these victories were lost in the myriad of politics and warfare, which received substantially more news coverage—which is perhaps the root of 2016’s infamy. As media becomes increasingly dramaticized, the public cannot help but sense a certain negativity. Issues are overblown, and solutions are largely ignored.
Ironically, 2016 offers the American public an opportunity for positive change. We cannot denounce a year as terrible and assume we were not part of the problem. Reflecting upon 2016’s horrors can help us identify where we went wrong, and give us clues as to how to fix our mistakes. In its own messy, violent, chaotic way, 2016 was one big call to action. Let it serve as a reminder of what happens when we lose sight of our humanity.
Sources: Jaggard, Victoria. “6 Scientific Discoveries Worth Celebrating In 2016.” National Geographic, 16 Dec. 2016.