By Maureen Hart
I sat down to write my New Year’s column, and despite the joyousness of this season, I cannot say very much good about 2016, and I don’t expect better from 2017.
It’s not like me to be negative and depressed, but what can you think of a year that brought us so much heartache?
Looking back, however, this is what I remember:
January 2016: The World Health Organization announces an outbreak of the Zika virus, which causes birth defects during pregnancy. Boko Haram raids village in Nigeria and kills 65 people while also abducting many children. A suicide attack in Damascus kills 70 people. State of emergency declared in Flint, MI, after two year water crisis. Earthquake in Taiwan kills over 70 people. Deaths: David Bowie and Alan Rickman.
February 2016: North Korea launches a long-range rocket into space, violating multiple UN treaties and prompting condemnation from around the world. Suicide bombing at a refugee camp in Nigeria kills dozens. (The camp is for people fleeing Boko Haram—at least 2.5 million have fled from attacks by the militant group.) Deaths: Antonin Scalia and Harper Lee.
March 2016: Three coordinated bombings in Brussels, Belgium, kill 32 people and injure another 250. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claim responsibility for the attacks. Torrential rains hit the South, resulting in flooding rivers, deaths, and massive destruction. Deaths: Nancy Reagan and Patty Duke.
April 2016: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a German newspaper publish a set of 11.5 million confidential documents from a Panamanian corporation providing detailed information on more than 214,000 offshore companies and their shareholders, including noted personalities and heads of state. Series of earthquakes strike Southern Japan and Ecuador. Deaths: Prince and Merle Haggard.
May 2016: EgyptAir Flight 804 crashes with 66 people on board over the Mediterranean on a flight from Paris to Cairo. Three car bombs kill over 80 people in Baghdad and ISIS takes responsibility. 88,000 Canadians evacuated during wildfires. Deaths: William Schallert and Alan Young, staples of 1960s television comedy.
June 2016: The United Kingdom votes in a referendum to leave the European Union. ISIL claims responsibility to attaching Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, killing 45 and injuring 230. A total of 49 people are killed and another 53 wounded at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL. There is another terrorist attack in France, killing two policemen. A heat wave and fires strike the Southwest, and West Virginia suffers from massive flooding. Deaths: Sports legends Muhammad Ali and Gordie Howe.
July 2016: Revelers killed in Nice, France, during Bastille Day celebrations, as truck crushes 84 and injures 200 more. ISIS sponsors attacks in Bangladesh, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. On three different days there are terror attacks in Germany. There is a mass stabbing in Japan, and a priest is murdered by ISIS in France. Deaths: Elie Wiesel and Garry Marshall.
August 2016: The Summer Olympics were held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, which should be listed under good news except that the Zika virus frightened some travelers away. An airstrike hit a hospital in Yemen, a suicide bomber attacked a Turkish wedding celebration, and a new policy in the Philippines led to thousands being killed in a war against drugs. Even the UN admitted responsibility for a cholera epidemic in Haiti. Deaths: Gene Wilder and director Arthur Hiller.
September 2016: The government of North Korea conducts its fifth and reportedly biggest nuclear test and world leaders again condemn the act. The Syrians dropped a chlorine bomb in Aleppo, while the U.S. and Russia called for a Syrian cease-fire, which was quickly over. A typhoon hit Asia. Deaths: Arnold Palmer and Shimon Peres.
October 2016: Protests were held in Venezuela, South Korea and Morocco, while a police van plowed into protestors in the Philippines. Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti and the Eastern Seaboard, and more earthquakes rocked Italy. Death: Bobby Vee
November 2016: Hundreds of migrants drowned off Libya, and ISIS captured hundreds of civilians outside of Mosul and killed Shiite pilgrims as well. An earthquake and tsunami hit New Zealand, and a plane carrying a Brazilian soccer team crashes. Deaths: Fidel Castro and Leonard Cohen.
December 2016: Kurdish militants killed dozens in Istanbul. There is another earthquake in Indonesia. A terrorist drives a bus into a Christmas market in Berlin. (The month is not over yet.) Deaths: John Glenn, Alan Thicke, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. A month in which Princess Leia dies is a bad month indeed..
I’ve skipped so many things—university shootings, and police shootings, and more natural disasters than I could cite above. I was going to total the number I listed as killed, but decided that was too awful. I just want us to remember that each of those victims is not just a statistic.
They were loved and cherished by their families and friends. They will be missed.
Most notably, I skipped the entire cesspool that was the U.S. presidential election—which, in itself, marked a new low with such highlights as discussions of the size of a candidate’s penis, the use of the F word, his belief that he can grab women anywhere on their bodies, a billionaire cabinet which also boasts a white supremacist, and so many other strange incidents that it deserves a whole category unto itself. But that is all over now, and we have to wait and see how it all plays out.
If you got depressed and gave up reading the news headlines for 2016, just remember how debilitating it was to live through all of it.
And, as I said, 2017 does not look any more promising. Britain has to move ahead with Brexit. We have to find out just what kind of a Leader of the Free World has been elected. We can’t prevent the natural disasters. I don’t expect peace in the Mideast anytime soon. In fact, I don’t expect Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men anytime soon. Not in my lifetime.
And, so, what do we do to keep from jumping off a cliff at the prospect of yet another year of war and upheaval, earthquakes and terrorists?
All I can really suggest is that we set out priorities and keep our family and friends close. That we cherish the small moments. That we try to help those less fortunate. This Christmas season offered us many ways to do that – a donation to Toys for Tots, helping at a soup kitchen, turning over old but still nice coats and clothing to the homeless, crocheting hats and mittens for the poor. There are so many ways to help that don’t take a lot of time or cost a lot of money.
I suggest we keep on doing that. A friend of mine gives a small donation every month to a different organization or charity. She learned this philanthropic habit from her mother. I think it is a great idea. Give to those you really care about – political, educational, scientific, religious—whatever organizations best represent your values. Remember the local ones, too — they need it more than most.
Decide to be kind. To do one good deed each day, even if it is only opening a door for somebody. Make this part of your routine and it will become the largest part of who you are.
These small things are the only way we, as common citizens, can try to change this world. Let’s not talk about the “others,” as if they are less than we are. Those parents in Syria are experiencing the same excruciating pain at the loss of their children that we would feel. The Italians and Ecuadorans and Japanese who lost their houses in earthquakes this year mourn the loss of home as much as we would. In the end, we are all the same. We may look different, eat different foods, enjoy different music, read different books. But we are all part of humanity, and we mustn’t allow the inhumane amongst us–the ISIS, the Boko Haram, the KKK, all of the haters–take it away from us. Happy 2017.