Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy 2017 - Out With the Old, In With the New

Okay, so finally, 2016 is history!

It started to feel long for me, personally, right around November 8th. Can anyone guess why? I'll give you three guesses!

Truth be told, the alternative, a Hillary Clinton presidency, was not exactly an inspired option, either. They were both quite bad, and Clinton would not have been much better, frankly. She might have been more composed and less asinine in how she would have conducted herself, and maybe less transparent with the excess and greed and hatred. However, make no mistake - the billionaire, corporate supremacist agenda would have been in full gear.

At least we know what we are fighting in 2017, as almost no effort is being made to even disguise the destructive sins that America collectively has given into, represented best by our President-elect, Donald Trump. And just in case anyone missed it, Trump had a lovely New Year's Eve message on Twitter (of course), in which he referred to millions of his fellow Americans as "enemies." 

I want to be fair, so let me put the message here, in full, and in the future president's own words:

TO ALL AMERICANS- #HappyNewYear & many blessings to you all! Looking forward to a wonderful & prosperous 2017 as we work together to #MAGA🇺🇸


In any case, while the Trump family may have had a spectacular year in 2016, most of the rest of us felt a bit blindsided by it. I have already reviewed the year in recent blog entries, but there were terrorist attacks in Europe and in the United States, and one just took place in Turkey to usher in the new year.  The war in Syria not only continued, but intensified, and the conflict escalated to become the biggest humanitarian emergency since the end of World War II. We are hearing that South Sudan is on the verge of a genocide possibly on the scale of the one seen in Rwanda in 1994. There are new settlements by Israeli families deep in Palestinian lands. Tensions between the United States and China and Russia keep seeming to grow. There clearly is apprehension in Europe, as evidenced by Brexit, and the Italian vote, when Italians rejected constitutional changes in what many viewed as a de facto vote on the European Union in general. Other countries, including the Netherlands and France, are seeing powerful, far right wing nationalist movements on the rise. And we had a ton of great talent die in 2016, including some great authors, musicians, actors and actresses, and athletes.

However, a new year is upon us, and however bleak things may look, we have to hope to do better collectively.

Here are some reasons that I am hopeful:

1. There appears to be more active resistance to the incoming White House regime than any other in history. I hope that this can be taken as a sign that citizens will finally begin to educate themselves and, even more importantly, to take a more active role in decisions that impact them.

2. There are laws in place that limit the extent of the damage that one man, or one administration, can do. I know that laws can be changed, and certainly, Trump is one man who clearly will not hesitate to make those changes. But in their arrogance and ignorance of the law, I see a still stronger resistance emerging. Maybe this time, it can have some staying power. 

3. The rest of the world seems to be moving on with important things regardless of what Americans are doing, one way or the other. It used to be that American leadership seemed required in almost any field. But now, particularly with the fight against climate change, the world feels that it cannot rely on American action, or apparently, even belief. So, numerous countries are making serious improvements in developing alternative energy sources and fighting climate change. Germany continues to develop a very impressive wind power energy source. The Netherlands is apparently going ahead with a plan to ban gas and diesel cars by 2025. France has limited car use in it's cities, and has made massive food waste illegal. Italy followed suit on illegalizing massive food waste. Even tiny Iceland seems to be a leader in the field of alternative energy. Japan is leading in water as an alternative energy source. And many countries are going ahead with the Paris Accord Agreement, which is encouraging, even while the United States, at least under Trump, is looking for an out. And even within the United States, more Americans are moving ahead with their plans to lessen their carbon footprint. California is going to step up even more as an answer, and kind of counterweight, to Donald Trump in the White House. And I do not believe that they will be alone, either.

4. Marijuana continues to be more accepted. More countries have decriminalized it, like Canada and Uruguay. More states are joining Washington and Colorado in legalizing it. It makes sense, because this prohibition has had lasting effects, and almost none of them are good. Hemp can be used in clothes, paper, and many other things, even food products. And to boot, it would be beneficial to the environment! No wonder it was made illegal, huh?

5. Americans are waking up to the fact that the private, for profit prison system just does not work. There are more people in prison in the United States than in any other country in the world, and it is not even close! Plus, this is very costly, and even conservative politicians are taking a critical look and suggesting that it has failed us.

6. More and more Americans are questioning the whole War on Drugs, which has been an abysmal failure, and very related to the whole for profit prison system. Using unbelievable resources that have cost a ton of money has been one of the things that has bankrupted the United States, and it has been all for naught. We need to rethink our approach, and more and more Americans are realizing this.

7. Consumer awareness is on the rise. People recognize that boycotting corporations can work. It  has worked in the past for political action, such as the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement against apartheid in South Africa. People are moving increasingly towards the same with corporations that engage in criminal activity, and I suspect that this will keep rising. A bank in Norway opted out of their involvement with the pipeline at Standing Rock, and many people took their money out of American banks that supported the project. People fighting with their wallets, hurting corporations and banks where it counts, will become more and more common.

These are just a few things that make me, personally, feel hopeful for the future, and allow me to keep any sense of giving up or desperation clearly at bay. We do not need to panic. As weird as the world situation seems to be, on many levels, this is just the result of an instinct by many to return to what they believed was more sure footing in the past. You can call it misguided, and it may indeed have detrimental effects, but I am not so sure that it is entirely new. We have fought it successfully before, and will do so again!

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