As we approach the end of 2016, counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds til the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, this year I will proceed with caution. I’m sure Times Square will be, as usual, bursting at the seams, and New Year’s Eve will still be full of the usual excitement for the year to come. Couples will have their celebratory kiss and we’ll sing another chorus of Auld Lang Syne.
But this year, at least for many of us, the arrival of 2017 will also come with relief in letting go of the massive dumpster fire that was 2016.
2016 – the year that brought forth detestable politics locally such as HB2 in my home state of North Carolina, which set the NCGOP into perpetual motion of a power-hungry, power-grabbing cycle. Most recently, they’ve held special sessions at the tax-payers cost of $42,000 per day to essentially strip incoming Governor Roy Cooper (D) of his power to govern the state, while also ignoring the loud, unwavering will of the people.
I have friends who sat in on the sessions in our Legislative Building and tweeted throughout. One local news station even did a Facebook Live Feed broadcast. The behavior of our representatives was all disturbing, to say the very least. But I was most disgusted by the fact that one republican representative in particular continued to look up at the gallery of protesters, grinning at them like a spoiled toddler who has just done something very bad but knows his mom won’t spank him in public.
In NC, the summer was no better than the contentious spring that heralded HB2. On a larger scale, many of us watched in terror as the media outlets, who were once laughing at Donald Trump were now giving him a free daily platform.
And then the summer just got relentless. There was the murder of The Voice’s young superstar Christina Grimmie, as she signed autographs after her concert in Orlando. Without even a moment to comprehend her loss came the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting – the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. This was an act of terror against our LGBTQ+ community, and most especially, the Latinx LGBTQ+ community who regularly gathered in a city that was otherwise accepting and embracing of all. And let’s not forget that in the same week, in a parent’s worst nightmare come true, there was the DisneyWorld gator attack that took the life of a two-year-old Lane Graves, who was snatched away suddenly while playing along the edge of the water, his parents nearby at arms length.
Earlier in June there was Harambe’s death at the Cincinnati Zoo. That, coupled with the Disney gator attack saw new life breathed into a somewhat dormant culture of online parent-shaming. Not someone to usually unfriend someone on social media over angry posts, I found myself doing just that when a very well-to-do, well-traveled, well-educated friend from my past publicly posted a parent-shaming diatribe about Lane Graves’ mourning parents, stating that they should “sit their white privileged asses down and shut up.”
Now, I know all about white privilege, trust me. I have it. I write about it. I speak about it. But this was not the time or place to call “privilege,” for there’s nothing steeped in privilege about the loss of a child, whether it happened at a Disney Resort or not.
We lost tremendous citizens of influence such as author Harper Lee, well-respected journalists and media figures Morley Safer, George Curry (champion of black press), and the legendary Gwen Ifil. We’ve lost prominent playwrights, tech innovators, and tremendous academic figures. We lost autism advocate, Suzanne Wright, and Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate, Elie Wiesel. We lost leaders, politicians, and military figures.
Perhaps the most massive amount of loss occurred this year, though, in the artistic community of music and TV/film, especially those folks who resonated with my generation and influenced our formative years: David Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, Gary Shandling, Doris Roberts, Garry Marshall, Gene Wilder, Alexis Arquette, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, and just recently over Christmas, George Michael. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
On the even wider scale of news coverage, we watched as Belgium suffered terrorist bombings in Brussels, Paris had the Bastille Day attack, the Istanbul International Airport attack, the Germany train stabbing attack, the Zika outbreak, the Istanbul explosions, and of course the never-ending list of hate crimes and racist abuse that happened following both Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. President.
And, dear God, lest we forget, Aleppo, and the ongoing Syrian civil war. The images are coming at us with such furious speed that we feel we can do nothing except throw money towards organizations like Doctors Without Borders, and that’s if we have money to give in the first place, which many of us lack, living paycheck to paycheck.
It all makes you want to just throw your hands up in despair, or at least, live in your own little bubble and choose to stay happy. Unfortunately, bubbles do burst over time, so the sooner we face what’s happening, the better. In fact, the minute we stop talking about the current state of American politics is the minute it becomes normalized, and let me remind everyone that what is happening right now in the American political scene is not normal. It is not normal for America. We should be shouting it everywhere: “THIS IS NOT NORMAL.”
We have a president-elect who, during his campaign trail, bragged that he could “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody,” and still wouldn’t lose any voters.” He perpetuated myths, continually displayed racism, and showed cultural insensitivity in general. For one thing, he suggested that the mother of a fallen Muslim American soldier did not speak at the DNC because her husband wouldn’t let her. He tried to reach out to Latinx voters on Cinco de Mayo by tweeting a picture of himself in Trump Tower with a taco bowl, saying, “I love Hispanics.” He called for a ban on an entire group of people based on their religion, advocating for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” He refused to disavow white supremacist and former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke four times in one interview. He suggested that African Americans need to be “incentivized” to work and need jobs “where they’re making more money than sitting back and doing nothing.” He also said he doesn’t view Transgender rights as “civil rights.”
This man will be our next president. This is not normal.
In addition to other deplorable acts like having mocked a reporter with a disability, arguing that hosting a beauty pageant counted as foreign policy experience, lying about having seen “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheering the 9/11 attacks from New Jersey, and having written a tweet so offensive that the speaker of the House called it anti-semitic and said it had “no place in a presidential campaign,” Trump continues to be highly unskilled in the nuanced cultural differences of foreign nations, and here’s my personal favorite: Trump said his number 1 source for foreign policy advice was himself, because, “I have a very good brain, and I’ve said a lot of things.”
Wow. This man will be our next president. This is not normal.
And then we have ultra-conservative people who are telling us bleeding-heart liberals, in response to a Trump presidency, to “suck it up buttercup, stop acting like it’s the end of the world.” It seems like they’re gloating until you realize that they are saying this out of experience. They learned, after eight years of President Obama, that they were wrong. The world did not end with Obama as President, in fact, quite a few things got better under his presidency. There’s a comprehensive, objective website that lists just a handful of those things, all fact-checked for accuracy, and here are some of them:
- The U.S. has now had 78 straight months of economic expansion
- We are currently enjoying the longest period of private sector job creation in American history
- Unemployment has dropped from 10.1% in October, 2009 to 4.9% in early 2016
- The stock market continues to set new record highs
- The federal budget deficit has been reduced by two-thirds since 2009
- Government spending has increased only 3.3% annually, (the lowest rate since Eisenhower was president)
- For 95% of American taxpayers, income taxes are as low or lower than they were at almost any point in the last fifty years
- Dependence on foreign oil has shrunk due to record domestic oil production and improved fuel efficiency standards
- At least 18 million more Americans now have health insurance than before President Obama took office
- The Affordable Care Act has added years to the life of Medicare, and further, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we are seeing the slowest rate of increase in healthcare costs since 1960
- We currently have fewer soldiers, sailors, and airmen in war zones than we did at any time in the last 12 years
- There have been zero successful attacks by al Qaeda on U.S. soil since Obama became president, and
- We now successfully catch and deport significantly more illegal immigrants than before.
But please, tell me one more time how Obama was the antichrist. (Spoiler alert: he wasn’t.) Please tell me more about how Obama should’ve been impeached because of Benghazi, even though each and every Republican investigation has proven that the Obama administration did neither anything wrong nor lied regarding Benghazi. Please do tell me again how “we have truly fallen under God’s judgment and will never see another white man occupy the White House again.”
And even though they doubted his national origin over the birth certificate issue, ultimately, after eight years these same people realized that Obama had never once showed up on their doorstep to take their guns away. They learned that lesson. Unfortunately, it took them eight years to learn it, and unfortunately, they are floating on the coattails of that newfound enlightenment as we head into a Trump presidency, that, let us not forget, IS NOT NORMAL.
Though the political climate is not normal, I definitely wouldn’t call 2016 the worst year ever. But, 2016 has been more than unkind in every arena. In fact, at least in America, the whole year has been a 3-ring circus with Trump as ringmaster. Thus, I will approach 2017 with extreme caution.
I’m not backing down from my platform: I will continue running discussion groups and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, especially with regard to transgender and gender creative people, who need us now more than ever with the likes of Trump’s apparent senior staff – Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Steve Bannon, and Ken Klukowski – all who have a rich history of anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs and actions. Trump can very well set back LGBTQ+ rights by placing these politicians in positions of extreme power, so it’s absolutely necessary that we do not normalize this.
I will continue volunteering my time with the marginalized trans and gender creative community, writing about them, and doing what I can to help educate others on this largely ignored and misunderstood population of humans. But I will proceed with caution, because I can’t help but think that as we approach the sixty second countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve, with all the thrill and anticipation that an impending new year heralds, that we are much like cattle being herded to slaughter. We have no idea what’s in front of us, but that doesn’t mean we should go into it expecting status quo.