The Capitol Building Awaits Trump’s Inauguration: January 18, 2017 (Geoff Livingston/Flickr)
At the close of 2016, there was consensus, at least among half of Americans, that the last 365 days mirrored hellfire.
Hatred and anger were intertwined with our political culture more than ever. It became near impossible to detach politics from our national dialogue. An already divided America was officially cracked straight down the middle.
Despite the panic and disgrace of the year behind, the promise of a fresh start with a new year diffused optimism. There was hope that as our calendars changed from December 31 to January 1, the turbulence of 2016 would be left behind.
The Obama Administration exited the White House in January with North Korea as its top national security concern, but as Trump calls “Rocket Man” “short and fat,” he has trivialized the ongoing threats and actual test launches that point to a future of nuclear chaos. With a customary administration, Republican or Democratic, Americans at the very least can look at their Commander in Chief as a protector: a strategic intellect that will surely find a way to negotiate and maneuver us to safety. Right now, we pray that as Trump tweets, someone else is at the real helm.
With our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, our government neglected the well-being of our planet and the longevity of humanity, but it also removed the United States from its position of global responsibility. As the rest of the world looked on, our dramatized isolation officially commenced.
It seemed that as we sunk deeper into our own conflict, we set back the clock on our own morality. The rallies of World War II Nazis and the K.K.K.’s Civil Rights Era violence made an appearance in Charlottesville. And as Trump declared that there were “very fine people on both sides,” we were left wondering if the violent, alt-right fringe is suddenly a mainstream political group again.
Mass shootings not only made 2017 quarrelsome but also deadly. Most notably, the attack in Las Vegas left 59 dead and 441 injured. The Texas Church shooting last month left 26 dead and 20 injured, with almost half the victims children. Though such mass killings have become a regular occurrence in the US, legislators across the country have failed to enact meaningful guns laws or reforms. With blood on their own hands, congressmen sent out their fair share of thoughts and prayers.
New Year’s is an illusion that we can magically become different people—even a different society—with a flip of the calendar. And despite the never-ending lists of 2017’s atrocities and misfortunes, there’s reason to think that this year has not only been a positive but pivotal time in history. In 2016, we drowned in our sorrows about the hardships of the day. In 2017, we rallied.
We kicked off the year with the Women’s March, just a day after the inauguration, with many members of the Academy community in attendance. A national precedent was set: if our civil rights were overstepped, we would take a stand.
In 2016, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem, and a year later, this action is still relevant. Some saw this as a disgrace to our veterans. Others saw this as the epitome of exercising the rights those across the sea serve to protect. Regardless of stance on the issue, Kaepernick’s kneeling initiated a movement, not about standing or sitting at the beginning of sporting events, but about bringing justice to police brutality and prejudice.
As the Weinstein accusations were exposed, the #MeToo movement (started ten years ago by Tarana Burke) saw renewed vigor. Despite what goes on within our government’s walls, the American people are finally beginning to call for justice. Women are gaining the confidence to speak out about their own assault experiences, with less fear of being humiliated by the public or punished by the assaulter themselves. Although it’s horrible that some of these stories have taken decades to surface, it’s heartening to know that people have started demanding consequences for the perpetrators’ actions instead of keeping the crimes hidden for decades down the line.
The degree of racism, corruption, and sexual assault we have seen the last year has always existed, but it is just now being exposed. As the tragedies and atrocities built up, we found more and more chances to make our voices heard and openly fight for our beliefs. Whether it was the Suffrage or Civil Rights Movement, moral change to our system has never come with a simple, peaceful transition. Major character change in our nation has always been preceded by the most turbulent and violent of times, but out of the flames, we have emerged a better, more compassionate union.
So where is our role in all of this? As journalists, it is our job to inform the public. A newspaper exists to pass on information about what’s happening in the world around us, and from that, people can react and form their opinions in any way they wish. It’s a heavy responsibility, but despite the pervasiveness of “fake news,” the next few years will be a golden moment for journalism. Now, more than ever, will people be looking to newspapers and other media outlets for updates on the state of our troubled world. This is the time for journalists to re-establish their credibility and work toward creating an informed nation. No matter how small our impact might be, the change has to start somewhere—and The Academy Life vows to be part of that change.
Finally, as people, we can conform to our divisiveness, or we can take control of our own future. When we talked with J.D. Vance last week, he made us realize that we will be growing up in “a world that is remarkably unstable.” From this year alone, there is enough evidence to prove his claim. What is crucial to recognize, however, is how the chaos of today does not ensure a dark future but rather an option to choose it. We can recognize that one side never has all the right answers nor does one person. We can grow up and become people that listen to one another, make compromises, and are relentlessly kind, regardless of our differing backgrounds.
2017 has given our generation a platform to take a stand for greater good. To 2018 and the years to follow: We’re ready for you.