OPINION – I was hoping to find something profound, something deep, something meaningful, possibly something positive to say as we close the books on 2016.
The only thing I can think of is, with apologies to The Grateful Dead, what a long, strange trip it’s been.
As years go, 2016 was a bedeviling mix, a healthy serving of grief topped with a spoonful of anguish and a plateful of surprise.
We lost some incredibly talented people in 2016, people who touched us in so many ways.
There were the musicians, from Glenn Frey and David Bowie to Prince and Leonard Cohen; the sports heroes from Muhammad Ali to Arnold Palmer; the actors, from Gene Wilder to Alan Rickman; the folk heroes from John Glenn to Fidel Castro.
It was so brutal that perhaps Time magazine’s Person of The Year should have been The Grim Reaper. Instead, the honor went to the unlikeliest of candidates who proved he wasn’t bluffing when he announced his improbable candidacy.
In the beginning, many thought the Donald Trump run was a joke, a ruse to gain a larger standing in the public eye. Next thing we knew, he was knee deep in one of the most brutal presidential races in history, only to emerge as a nondecisive winner, his opponent racking up 3 million more popular votes, but not enough in the Electoral College, to do the job.
How this will play out when he takes the oath of office in a few short weeks is anybody’s guess. We’ll have to tune in to Twitter and see how it goes.
It was also the year of unsocial media taking over the cyberwaves once occupied by happy Facebookers who, during happier times, seemed content with sharing pictures of their cute kitties, rambunctious puppies and darling children and telling us all what they had for lunch. We soon found out that when it came to tackling topics of substance they couldn’t handle it.
When they did decide to get political, an uncivil war broke out in the Twittersphere and Facebook pages that was unparalleled in anger and vitriol.
It got ugly and there are still deep scars etched into the psyche of many users who found that they actually could spend entire days exchanging insults with people they had never met face-to-face and would never dare speak to in all caps and exclamation points as they do on Mark Zuckenberg’s monster.
It was the year fake news took hold, with phony news sites springing up to poison our hearts and minds and substantiate the grossest of lies and shred any iota of decency left in our souls.
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I hope we have learned something from all of this.
I hope we have learned, from the many shocking deaths, that life is fragile, a precious thing, a fleeting moment in time and space and that we should find a way to love and respect people while they are still among us instead of showering our affection in blubbering obituaries strewn with guilt and sorrow. By then, folks, it’s too damn late.
I hope we have learned, from the jaw-dropping, mind-numbing political campaign we just endured, that we should not take anything for granted, that we should not shrug off the flavor of the day because we just might be dining on a steady diet of such for the next four years. Egos are too fragile to sling through even the vague beginnings of such endeavors only for the sake of more time in the spotlight. Look, there are still those, I am sure, who are not yet convinced that Trump, from the beginning, was in it to win it.
Most of all, I hope we have learned that lost civility is, perhaps, humankind’s greatest sin.
We have done unto others egregious inflictions of hate and anger.
If we were little kids, we’d have been sent to bed without our supper, had our privileges taken away for at least a month and forced to apologize for our rude, insensitive behavior.
But, we aren’t kids.
We’re adults, even though not all of us embrace our adulthood or the responsibilities it incurs.
We treat each other with suspicion, dread, a sense of superiority – earned or not – and look down, without reason, on those who dare speak in a different tongue, come from a different culture or worship a different deity. Heaven forbid we differ on politics.
But, we get a do-over in a few days.
We get a fresh year of months, weeks, days, minutes and hours to try to make it right again, to try to find a humanity lying wounded in the intensive care unit.
I’m disappointed in how we turned out in 2016, saddened by the hurt we have inflicted upon each other, the restrictions we have tried to place upon others while insisting we have the floor to speak and spew our screed.
I guarantee the United States of 2016 is not the nation our Founding Fathers had in mind.
So I’m hoping the greatest gift of the season is one of patience, understanding, compassion, and, most of all, civility.
I’m kind of tired of avoiding conversation with some people because of their knee-jerk reactions and refusal to listen or to explore what somebody else is saying or believes.
Just watch the comments here and on the Facebook page.
There will be those who will claim this is a diatribe against Trump, Republicans, truth, justice and the American way.
It is not.
It is a plea for us to simply stand in front of the mirror, look ourselves in the eye and ask that person we see who they really are, what they really believe, and if they are being civil, caring, sensitive human beings. Are you satisfied with yourself?
It doesn’t matter if you voted for Trump, Hillary Clinton or Mickey Mouse. Heck, it doesn’t even matter if you even voted, belong to a political party or religious organization.
All that matters is what lies behind those eyes see in the mirror.
If you are satisfied, good for you.
But if there are any doubts, well, perhaps you are really in need of the do-over that 2017 promises.
My sincerest wish is for us all to have a happy, prosperous and healthy new year filled with love and light.
And, perhaps, to put our do-over to good use.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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