As the final days of the old year slowly sink below the horizon, we pause to consider the meaning of the many noteworthy events of 2016, recalling each and weighing the mass to assess their combined effect on our lives and what they portend for the future.
Many people were emotionally impacted this year by the presidential primary season and the unexpected election outcome. Although the surprise result traumatically affected many, causing public demonstrations nationwide and leaving a shellshocked Democratic Party in its wake, the evidence of mounting frustration and rejection of the status quo among those, especially the job-displaced and less-educated who felt they’d been left behind, had been emerging.
Both political parties paid little heed to the distress calls and specific, meaningful proposals for relief were wholly absent during primary season. The Democratic nominee’s efforts to focus the national discussion on issues of policy were repeatedly thwarted by the Republican’s disinformation machine and outlandish proposals which, wrapped in generalities, strained credibility. Time will tell which, if any, will come to fruition.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the singularly ugly campaign was the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the eventual winner. During periods of political and economic unrest throughout our country’s history, politicians have repeatedly sought to scapegoat immigrants as the cause of labor unrest. In reality, immigrants are recruited to perform the most menial types of work in our country’s economy, work often belittled by American workers as “stoop labor.” In the 1930s, John Steinbeck wrote about the plight of such farm workers in California, failing to understand “the hatred towards the migrants who are responsible for the success of our agricultural economy.”
Though voters and pundits alike were left scratching their heads the morning after, interestingly enough, in 1998, a book by Richard Rorty, “Achieving Our Country,” had actually predicted this year’s developments, describing the rise of a demagogue who would lead a governmental upheaval. Now that the democratic process has delivered its verdict, we soberly look ahead to the aftermath that awaits us in 2017.
The challenge for all of us in the new year will be to choose hope over discouragement, and belief in our collective ability to address our greatest difficulties over the forces of division. If history is any guide, we Americans are more than equal to the task.