Let me get it out of the way: I do not love the way politics went in the United States.
But I really struggle with the constant narrative dominating the internet that 2017 was the worst year.
Really? Was it really the worst year ever?
What about 1347, when the Bubonic Plague wiped out a third of the human population? Or maybe 1975-1979, the years of the Cambodian Genocide? What about 79 AD when Vesuvius erupted, burying the entire city of Pompeii and its residents? That was LITERALLY A DUMPSTER FIRE OF A YEAR.
Look, I get it. I’ll say it again: I did not love the way politics went this year.
But sadly, I also expected them to go that way because the candidate I did not vote for ended up winning and the congress I did not vote for is running the show. There are white supremacists and extremist groups on the rise. Affordable healthcare is in an uncomfortable limbo at the moment and getting into territory that could raise costs even more. Trump has made numerous attempts on banning refugees and making the vetting process even more difficult than it already is.
There’s some serious crap happening, and I understand the cynicism. After all, isn’t this 2017? We ask. Shouldn’t we have gotten our shit together by this point?
For a world with such incredible technological and medical advancements, we still haven’t nailed basic human decency. If people are murdering their own people in the next country over, the least we can do is let the refugees come stay in our country, right? People should be able to get treated for their illnesses without getting into crippling debt, right? Why are there so many mass shootings? Is nobody listening anymore?
And worst of all, it feeds into this tiny fear lurking in the back of our brains: are we letting our society just get worse and worse until we’ve doomed ourselves without realizing it?
So, yes. I understand. A lot of crap is happening, and it sucks to know how little control I have over these problems.
But I think society at large is still getting better. Some candidates I voted for this year in local elections have won. Across the country (and world, for that matter) you see citizens taking matters into their own hands and are peacefully voting, participating, engaging. They are making positive change happen.
You know what else is amazing? People are believing victims of sexual assault. Perpetrators are facing actual consequences of their actions. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a refreshing, emboldening start.
Google it and you’ll see: good stuff did happen this year. When the solar eclipse happened in the northwestern hemisphere, strangers were making friends with each other and sharing eclipse glasses. People were obsessed with it and it was delightful participating in this natural phenomenon.
A college student missed his graduation because he was stuck on the subway, but no worries – the people on the train held a makeshift ceremony for him.
The ALS ice bucket challenge actually worked, raising $115 million in donations. The ice bucket challenge was in 2014, but this year Israeli scientists were able to develop a new treatment, which was shown to increase life expectancy.
Chance the Rapper donated $1 million to Chicago public schools as a call to action. Talk about using your power for good. Twitter is finally starting to censure hate groups. Even with all the hurricanes happening this year, it’s been encouraging to see all the relief workers and the best of people coming out.
I’m trying myself. I’ve donated to charities and movements to improve policies, even if it’s as little as $3 for Wikipedia. This year I volunteered at a women’s shelter to make just a tiny difference – and honestly, most of what I did involved sorting donations and watering the plants. I’ve tried to be a little less self-absorbed and actively work to bring value to my environment, from my family to my friends to my coworkers.
So much good happened this year. So much.
It doesn’t cancel out the bad. It doesn’t make certain situations any better. But goodness exists. It’s out there. For every evil CEO screwing over others, you’ll find the person sacrificing their salary so they don’t have to fire anyone. You’ll see people taking care of their parents as old age starts to take its toll.
Look for the good and you’ll find it.