As we limped to the end of 2016, the promise of a new year arrived.
The holiday is always a mix of nostalgia and optimism, as we look back on another year of getting older and look ahead to a fresh new beginning. Hanging a new calendar offers us the pleasing opportunity to start again with a blank slate.
2016 will not go down as the best of slates. It was marred by the most exhausting and debased presidential election in recent memory. It included the denouement of Syria’s Civil War — which showed us that inconceivable suffering can and does exist in the 21st century. That was and others in the Middle East contributed to a refugee crisis that spread across much of the world, which has tested governments, international charities and our own hearts. The year was also scarred by an almost continuous parade of dying cultural figures, from David Bowie to Carrie Fisher. Each one seemed slam the national bummer button harder than the last. And the U.S. government was a mess throughout — the Supreme Court spent a whole session with an even number of judges and Congress could barely be persuaded to pay the nation’s bills.
Many of us were excited to see 2016 take its place in the rear view mirror.
But this New Year’s Day was different than most recent ones. For some, their optimism is mixed with plenty of anxiety. A new U.S. president is among the top causes of worldwide heartburn, because he has shown himself to be a man not prone to respecting political or social mores. Perhaps there is a benefit to a new kind of politician, but there are real concerns about the continuity of the world order that have not been present since the Cold War. The first year of a Donald Trump presidency is bound to bring significant change, and change is scary. Lord knows it was for those who had to get used to Barack Obama.
Good things can happen in 2017. Growth and stability, promotions and awards and marriages and births. Yet sadly we know will see another war somewhere in the world, another genocide and another terrorist attack. There will be blood. There will be layoffs and divorces and deaths.
So much will be out of your hands in the next year, but much will be in them. Nothing changed on January 1 unless you did. So let’s make this a year of personal responsibility, of personal charity and kindness. Let’s do our best. Let’s hold our leaders responsible for their actions, and to the same code of decency we teach at home. Let’s make a resolution to be better than we were.
2017 is here. And perhaps the most painful and most comforting thought is that in the blink of an eye it will be over, and we’ll be right back here talking about the coming of another new year.