In November, John Oliver did a tribute to 2016. At the end of the video, he blows up a big “2016” display as a way of giving an end to what was last year. The clip left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s too easy to dismiss 2016, to tell it to “fuck off”. If we don’t embrace the events of 2016, then we’ll simply continue to repeat what transpired.
For me, struggles were overcome. Good things happened, events that were years in the making:
- I published a book and started a second one;
- I watched my son graduate from high school and helped him off to college;
- I watched my daughter travel to Japan where she worked for a non-profit that grows organic food and monitors radiation levels in the earth outside of Fukushima province;
- I watched my wife’s career blossom.
No doubt, we all encountered challenges in 2016 that are not going away. Climate change. Corroding infrastructure. Terrorism. But let’s not simply define the past by what goes wrong. Let’s balance the struggles with the successes. Let’s take a look at how we have progressed, culturally and personally, as a way of building on our goals, dreams, and aspirations.
This sense of optimism is not a vehicle for ignoring what is happening. Optimism is in large part the result of living in a country that enables opportunities to transpire, where dreams can reach fruition. Let’s not place too much focus on the political. Yes, Mr. Trump will be president soon, and I must admit that I’ll miss the leadership of President Obama. I will miss his willingness to listen to people, to reflect before acting, his ability to publicly act as a functional husband and father. I will miss it, but it doesn’t mean that our democracy and culture are evaporating. It doesn’t imply that the good that happened in 2016 will not continue into 2017.
No doubt, we must continue to defend and fight for our liberties, but we do so by actively exercising our ability to publicly share ideas and pursue dreams. I am grateful for 2016, and I am grateful for what 2017 has to offer. If we only focus on what is going wrong (which is what I get from watching the news media), then we impede what can go right.