Let’s play a quick game of Would You Rather? Would you rather go through 2016 all over again or throw yourself into a lake of fire, letting it melt you down into bone, for no purpose beyond torturing yourself until you shrug off this life? Trick question! They’re the same thing.
This year was balls, starting with the sheer volume of celebrity deaths: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Muhammad Ali, Prince. But the real kick in the tit has been the unrelenting and pure maleficence of human behaviour. Every corner of the world proved that people will not just conduct themselves poorly but also be outright evil if given the opportunity.
Is there any better place to start when looking at 2016’s sheer lack of human decency than the U.S. election? The weird shit Donald Trump said about (or did to) women and young girls, and immigrants, and brown and black people—is disgusting. And it’s not like Trump’s particular brand of racism or sexism happened suddenly; we let it happen with our own apathy, by pretending people have better instincts than they actually do. I hate Hitler comparisons—they’re often short-sighted and dramatic—but boy, it didn’t take much for Trump, and so many of his supporters, to descend into total depravity, did it?
Also this year, the Cubs blessedly won the World Series—but we were subjected to a full season of the Cleveland Indians’ defiantly racist name and logo. Nestlé outbid the town of Elora, Ont., for a well to sell water that would ordinarily be free. The North Dakota pipeline project came pretty close to proving that moving oil is more valuable than a nearby reservation’s humans and resources. A University of Toronto professor pooped his pants over people requesting he use genderless pronouns, a basic human right he twisted into some colossal inconvenience for cis people, who, so far as I can tell, have plenty of privileges as it is. Even Brad Pitt turned out to be a jerk.
Plus, at the tail end of the year, we had the resurgence of Toronto politician Kellie Leitch, now running for Conservative Party leadership, with her proposal to test new immigrants for “anti-Canadian values.” Points, at least, for masking an anti-immigrant, pro-racist campaign with her small-town “Make Canada great again!” shtick. This is a fine example of how the worst aspects of humanity fester: it always starts as an attempt to improve things in some way. Trump wanted to defeat ISIS, and Nestlé bought the well for “future business growth.” But the pursuit of betterment in these nefarious cases was always vague and always for a specific set of people—usually the white, rich ones already benefiting from the status quo.
And though this very bad year is finally winding down, 2017 will probably be bad, too. The worst of this year came in November, when Trump actually won the election we were all dreading, American or not. There is no limit to how crummy people can behave, particularly when they’re in power and particularly when they don’t really give a shit about what happens to you. We’ve seen that, time and again this year, but now we know that for the next four years, we’re not going to get much of a break.
But here’s the bright side: a year like we’ve just had reminds us that there’s so much work to be done. Remember all the back-patting we did when we elected Trudeau, as if he would be a salve to all our ills? Or when Obama became president and a handful of us thought, Wow, racism is over! Or even the fact that we continue to think things as simple as, Well, at least abortion is legal.
And even if we are comfortable, there are plenty who aren’t. This year offered a catalogue of all the ways to oppress all kinds of minorities (and even some majorities!). But there’s value in everything feeling a little bit terrible. It keeps us from complacency, and so much of this shitty year boiled down to just that: small indignities that built up, thanks to our own complacency. Trump is, indeed, a living f-cking nightmare, but for those of us who have otherwise lived unafflicted lives, let’s use this as a sign to work harder and carry some of the burden. So break out some champagne, toast to another shitty year survived, take a shower, and vow to try harder next year.
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