Whatever ideas you had about the fabric of America, whatever values you held most sacred, whatever lines you vowed never to cross — 2016 challenged them.
Crises rocked the country. Government mismanagement of funds and negligence resulted in the poisoning of a city’s water supply. The national debt continues to rise, with no solution in sight. Mosquitoes continue to ravage the countries that can least afford to fight back. Another mass shooting — the largest in modern American history, targeted a community already struggling to feel safe in public. Shootings of unarmed civilians ignited American citizens against police forces that view minorities as criminals and a white America that views protesters the same.
The relative importance of values were hotly debated. What reigns supreme: personal privacy or national security? Capitalism and free-markets or government oversight and ethical caution? Freedom of self-identity and the spirit of inclusion or traditional simplicity and common-sense policies?
The trappings of this generation are all too clear. The free and limitless availability of Internet pornography is producing a generation of men and women with physical, emotional, and psychological disorders. Internet trolls are a very real phenomenon, dealing daily in harassment, death threats and the release of personal information. Teens, growing up immersed in social media, are reporting feelings of depression and despair at alarming rates.
And of course, there were politics. Too many politics. With the longest political season anywhere in the world, 2016’s presidential race ground us down until we were raw and reactionary. Neighbors, friends and families split down party lines, and armored themselves with reductionist slogans and used Facebook as a megaphone to yell at everyone at once but nobody in particular. We built up walls — real and imaginary. If we learned anything in 2016, it was the peril of focusing solely on issues that are both remotely abstract and deeply personal. It is on this quicksand that we drown.
But, scattered here and there, hopeful stories shone through. A pill for Alzheimer’s disease no longer seems like a pipe dream. Autonomous vehicles promise to reduce vehicle-related deaths and save us money on insurance in the process. America won 54 more medals in the Summer Olympics than the United Kingdom, putting us on top overall, with 1,510 more medals than the second-highest country (the former Soviet Union — which doesn’t even exist anymore, ha ha!).
2016 was tumultuous, but if you’re reading this, you survived. This is our last issue before we see you in 2017. Spend your Christmas break soothing strained relationships, solving emotional wounds and resolving firmly, to make 2017 great again … better.