The Year That Was 2016: Part One (a.k.a. Now What?)

I’m late to the Year In Review game, I know. I’ve been busy.

And I am not the first to point out that 2016 was an epic Shit Show on so many levels. Looking back, the writing was on the wall last January, when David Bowie and Alan Rickman died. It was a year that saw so many heroes from my childhood and young adulthood leave our world, when we–when I–needed them most. Because, left to our own devices, we did not show our best selves. In a lot of ways we showed the worst of ourselves. Collectively, we made terrible choices based on fear and on anger and, even worse, on apathy. Some of us were convinced that the best course for change was to elect a crocodile to “drain the swamp”–but instead of draining the swamp, he’s brought in MORE crocodiles. And those who lurked in the shadows, clinging to their bigotry and biding their time, have become emboldened and are harassing and threatening anyone who isn’t white, straight and Christian.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about all of this over the last couple of weeks. How the loss of so many of our heroes coincided with one of the darkest years in our modern history. How we lost our champions for racial justice and LGBTQ equality and advocates for access to health care in a year where men were put into office who want to turn back the clock on civil rights and deny access to health care to millions of people.

The astrologer Kaypacha referred to 2016 as The End of Illusion. Many of us realize that our paradigms are outdated, useless, and harmful to our society and to the planet. We had an opportunity within our grasp to begin to make real change, to dismantle the old, harmful paradigm. But too many of us underestimated how easily our neighbors would overlook the clear evidence of Evil, when Evil promised them his personal protection. Because, let’s face facts: to someone who feels (rightly or wrongly) disenfranchised, it’s a lot more comforting to see someone look straight into the camera and promise to protect them, individually, than someone who vows to do all s/he can to lift all of society, and risk being left behind again.

We all got caught up in our own illusions, but we’ve all landed on the same destructive path.

What 2016 was telling us–particularly those of us in the late-baby boom/early Gen X group–is that we need to seriously Grow Up and Show Up. We loved our icons: they entertained us, inspired us, advocated for those of us who couldn’t conform, and they lived their lives with such brazen honesty. While it is natural to lament our losses, we owe it to them to show what we actually learned from them, and how we plan to apply those lessons to life.

We no longer have the luxury of simply sitting in a theater, or on our couches, passively watching The Resistance play out on a screen. We are LIVING it.

This is more than a hashtag. More than occasionally changing your profile picture.  This is All Hands On Deck: to combat the challenges that we face requires a sustained effort. We cannot afford another moment of apathy. We cannot afford to allow lies to go unchallenged. We cannot afford to allow the basic human rights of our friends and neighbors and family members to be rolled back. We cannot afford to allow misdirected anger at poor people or immigrants result in millions of people losing access to health care.

We made a huge mess of it in 2016 and the work ahead of us is daunting. But the thought of what might happen to us if we don’t actively challenge tyranny is terrifying. Individually, we all have a part to play in this resistance. And I’m forever grateful that I have the example of General Leia Organa to draw inspiration from.