A brand new year.
What will it bring? What are you expecting?
There’s been a lot of media attention on the negative effects of 2016. Let me say first of all that I get it. Twenty-sixteen, the year of exposure, the year where fear came in ugly faced and raging. It took a great big ax and just starts tearing up the place. The mob took over the internet (and that’s on both sides of any issue)… and all our hope and vision for a free world in the future seemed to fade into a political take over of blindness and demagoguery.
2016 was loud. SO many opinions, so many voices, so many people shouting at each other across computer screens. If you stuck me at the front and center of a speed metal concert, I would still hear the ruckus of 2016 clamoring through. If I had to pick one word to describe the last 12 months, it would be “controversy.” Loud-mouthed, opinionated, inconsiderate, ignorant controversy. Even as it came to it’s end, people wouldn’t let it go quietly, but all their anger and frustration and refusal to shift in their positions or views was now directed at the year itself.
The flowers that grew amongst the vast desolation that is the world were trampled on. Giant boots, in anguish stomped them into the muddy earth. Any progress in sustainability fogged out by the smoke of fear and disillusion. The work of the white helmets blown to bits like the members themselves as they face the most real of dangers for the small chance to save lives of people who later might die anyway.
No, Trump won the presidency and suddenly the fight for what is good and right died with the loss of the liberal left in American politics. So, what are we really fighting for?
All these issues, terrorism, war, global tragedies, they have been around and will continue to be around for many years to come. For some reason though, this year has been the year that every news station and celebrity has decided to dramatize.
For our family, this was a great year. Despite our challenges and our mistakes. This was Sonya’s first year of life, it was also the year we made many breakthroughs as a family.
Not that losing Alan Rickman and Carrie Fischer didn’t just break my heart, or that all the controversies of 2016 didn’t just drag my heart around like a rag doll. Or that Aleppo and all the Syrian children that fill my Instagram feed didn’t wreck my heart on a daily basis. Or that our president elect isn’t a wild card whose impact on our country is so up high in the air its frankly a little terrifying. Or that the election itself revealed sides of people and friends I didn’t know existed.
No, to me, what upsets me most about 2016 is the incredible influence of the media, and the willingness of the people to flock to whatever opinion fits their views the most. The media has always been around. They have been distributing propaganda, and ignorant belief systems that proliferate through the endless network of the web since the beginning. The media has always had its hand firmly set on bending our culture and thinking. But there was something about this year that just made it seem that much stronger. The one-sidedness, the articles that cater to previously held opinions. The exposure of peoples’ ignorance and lack of willingness to listen to each other. The fact that Huffington Post writes headlines like “F- you 2016” and all my liberal friends just fall in line with the rhetoric (that’s not a blow at Huffpo, which I read regularly). I don’t think I ever remember finishing a year off with so much negativity.
The fact alone that one of the most popular words that stem from 2016 is “post-truth” is enough to make me shake my head and wonder what happened. An idea that truth is now irrelevant and even our language is evolving to reflect just how true that sentiment has become for our country is unsettling.
I live in the very liberal city of Seattle. While I highly value my geographic position in the world, I grieve it as well. Seattle has given me a critical mind and an open heart. Still, there are downsides. While Seattle gives me a deeper understanding of the liberal left and their ideologies and belief systems (because I am absolutely immersed in them), it shields me from the realities faced by so many conservatives who make up much of the rest of the country. These conservatives often tend to be poor working families in small towns. I find myself trapped in so many ways, right in the middle. Seattle is a bubble, and while it is where I feel most at home, I also never feel completely at home.
Here, people might consider me conservative, while when I travel to the east of Washington State, I am the liberal crazy from the city. I would like to think that I simply do my best to understand both sides. My theory is that because I don’t 100% agree with either side, that I am considered to be from either opposing side. THAT is the problem. We live in a country where our beliefs should be just that, OURS. We have a right to them. I am allowed to disagree with you and still work with you, have coffee with you, take a walk on the beach with you. I don’t have to be a bigot because if I don’t agree with the left, and I don’t have to be a liberal nut because I don’t agree with the right. With either party, however, I am afraid to open my mouth.
We have bigger problems than the state of 2016, and the turning of the new year won’t change those problems. They still exist and we need to face them. ISIS has been a known enemy since 2014. I’ll never forget that year, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, Seattle was on the biggest high as a city and just weeks later terrorism showed us a new face and changed the world as we knew it. Racism has existed in our country since, guess what, the beginning. Zika is an evil, absolutely evil virus, but is everyone forgetting Ebola? Sickness, war, division, politics, hate, fear, these are prevalent issues in our world. If we define each year by the existence of these things, every year since the beginning of time have been doozies.
My point with all of this is that life is full of evil, our choice every day is as an individual, and it is how to respond to said evil. It is not wrong to despair, it is not wrong to feel pain, but find the light. Do you want to be the flower, blossoming in the unlikeliest of places despite the desolation, or would you rather be the angry boot that will let no light into our world of darkness.
This is a new year. If the world were to set it’s own New Years resolutions, what would they be? What’s gonna change? What isn’t going to change? What do we want to change? Do we all want the same things to change? What are people going to be saying at the end of 2017? Who is going to take responsibility with what’s wrong with the world?
There were some resolutions I thought of that I wouldn’t mind if the world would set for itself. They are my vision of what I wish our country and our world would look like. The work is done by us, as individuals. We must do what we can to shine through the darkness that fights to swallow each day.
I see a country where every individual would take responsibility for their own lives. That they would learn how to have a more outward focus. Part of that being learning how to listen more, hear another persons story, consider another persons point of view.
I see a country where organizations sell products that they are proud of and can stand by. That business values shift towards sustainability and quality. An impossible thought for so many reasons, but it only takes one or two people of impact and influence to really make a difference. And even that culture can start with us. If we actually made an effort in shopping smart and researching products, business owners would be forced to provide the products we demand in the way that we demand them. Just look at McDonald’s.
I see a world where Christians realize that this world and this country isn’t ours. We don’t even belong here.
I see a world where Christians stop trying to influence politics to fit their politics and learn to love the way Jesus loved.
I see a country where both sides LGBTQ and straight come to understand each other and can accept each other’s different views without playing the victim or turning the other party into the enemy. We live in a country that is meant to allow us to co-exist even though our theologies might differ.
I see a country where when people read an article on the internet, they critically evaluate the opinions of said article. A world where people check sources and become their own system of checks and balances. Stop giving power to demagogues and rabble-rousers.
I see a country where people stop playing watchdog and start being a community again.
I see a country that fights for what’s good and right, but in that onward spirit, doesn’t roll over the unheard and the forgotten.
I see a country that learns how to forgive and doesn’t throw judgment like accusatory stones. Just because we are typing words and not throwing physical rocks does not mean we aren’t stoning people in our modern world.
Add what you will to that list, let it be light-driven and uplifting. Let it be a goal, a vision we can strive toward together in order to achieve a better world. I could list so many things, medicine companies to get their priorities straight, sugar companies to be held accountable for the lies they’ve fed the country right into the death of thousands. Racism to be stamped out, equal pay for men and women, livable wages, an end to companies unethical use of lobbyists, abolition of unethical conditions for contracts (let us back into court against big companies).
We will have to start to consider the consequences of our complacency. So, when you think about 2016 and the endless complaints and negativity starts to overwhelm your brain, start to think about what you can do to change what we will be saying about 2017.
I have some really simple points for where to start:
- Smile: I see these social media videos that point out the fallacy of expecting a woman in particular to smile. I understand it combats the expectation put on women to look beautiful all the time. Still, men and women alike can really change the atmosphere of their day and the attitude of their own heart by simply putting a smile on their face. Don’t underestimate the extent the impact of your smile might have in one day alone.
- Listen: Never will I forget the awkward moment my senior year of high school where my home room teacher really got weird to get a point across. She told us she was going to explain to us how to find the best people, and how to know when we’ve found them. We sat in a circle and one thing at a time, she had us sit, touch our knees to each other’s, fold our hands and lean in… only in the last moment of silence where we anticipated our next bit of instruction did she reveal that lo and behold, the person who listens is to be valued the most. That event has stuck with me since that day, and it rings so true. If we can learn that when we discuss things, how to truly hear and consider what the other person is saying instead of just waiting to say our bit, maybe we wouldn’t be in half the trouble we are in.
Why do that? Have you ever misunderstood someone? What generally happens? They say something to you, you hear it through your filter (your experiences, your feelings, your world view) and you come up with your own interpretation of their words. Once you realize there is a misunderstanding you probably realize that what they said didn’t fit into anything in your filter that you threw their words through. Listening involves putting our filter aside and trying to learn what other peoples filters are. What is their life experience and what are their world views, and how would that define what they are actually trying to say?
- Discuss: Explore other thinking, and other ideas. Try to wrap your mind around the concept that there are people in the world who actually think different from you. Very different. The patriotism of North Americans doesn’t make any logical sense to my British friends. Other countries consider us loud, entitled and rude. Why is that? Talk to someone, learn how they live and what they value. Talk about race and politics. Gauge everything but have an open heart and an open mind.
- Get Involved: A simple google search can show you local charities or political movements that you can get involved in. “Political Movement” has such an intense ring to it, but it could be something as large as getting involved with movements like Standing Rock, or as little as signing a petition or writing a letter to your senator. Never before have we had the tools that we have today to make our voices heard.
Do some research, where is there a need in your neighborhood? Are there lots of young moms that could use some baby supplies? Is someone down on their luck and need some groceries? Volunteer, start a non-profit, donate money, just don’t do nothing.
Complacency will kill us.
So come on 2017, its going to be a good year. The year will probably still end with terrorist attacks, tragedies, big money continuing to take from little money, but if we can say we did our best personally in our own lives, maybe we won’t feel the need to rage against a collection of 365 days as the source of all our problems.
How to Get Involved:
If you are looking for ways to get involved in the current events happening with president Trump, I have just a few links you might find useful. Even if you are a republican, please don’t blind yourself to thinking that every thing president Trump does will be good for our country. Do the research, understand the issues and raise your voice. If you have ways to contribute, please contact me so I can add them to the list.
- Indivisible Guide: A fairly comprehensive and informative document shared with me by a friend. This document is specifically against Trumps agenda but has really great steps for how to impact the local people in charge.
- Petition.Whitehouse.Gov: There are endless amounts of petitions this site. However there are quite a few very important ones.
- Contacting Our Legislators (Washington State): This is a direct method to actually calling legislators and making our voices heard.
– Introduce yourself
– What issues do you want to address? Why are they important to you?
– Ask what their stance is
– Ask them to stand up for your issue
– Make sure to be supportive of them, thank them, be polite, they are the ones doing the hard work after all.
Some more tips for contacting legislators can be found here.