The year 2016 will certainly be one of those years. It’s the year of unlikely champions. From the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Chicago Cubs to Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, this year will be one for the underdogs.
Back in July, I wrote a column reminisce of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” talking about all the things that had 2016 burning just in the first half of the year. I had no idea then that we would be in an inferno coming into the homestretch.
Obviously the hottest thing at the moment is Trump’s “surprise” victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. I find it hard to call it a surprise when it’s something that over half the nation wanted. What does surprise me is how sore the losers are. Protests, marches, school closings – come on people, grow up! I find it ironic that many of the people who equated a vote for Trump as a vote for hate are now the ones spewing venom across social media and taking to the streets to display their temper tantrums.
In many ways, 2016 is a reflection of the years 1968 and 1969. There was plenty of political turmoil, including the riots at the Democratic National Convention and the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. It was not a good year to be a sports fan in Baltimore in 1969 as the Jets upset the Colts in the Super Bowl and the Mets came out of nowhere to beat the Orioles in the World Series.
Back then the Cold War was on, as was the war in Vietnam. The United States became victorious in the space race by landing men on the moon. And don’t forget peace, love and Woodstock!
I was just a small boy back then, blissfully unaware of the significance of the things my parents were watching on the TV news each night. I was more enamored with the likes of Star Trek, Batman and H.R. Pufnstuf. I was too young to know or care that we were living in extraordinary times. I am 51 now and painfully aware that we are living once again in extraordinary times. Social, racial and political unrest are rampant.
Unlike the late ’60s, we are not caught up in the race to the moon. We’re still hanging out (barely) in low-earth orbit and talking about maybe going to Mars someday. Heck, we’re still in disagreement over who can use what bathroom. It’s no wonder we can’t find our way to the red planet. Of course, space travel is expensive and this nation is more than $18 trillion in debt.
When you think about the debt and the chaos our society is in, perhaps it makes sense to have a maverick billionaire at the wheel. As unpopular as he is, he just might be the perfect person to make the tough choices, ignore political correctness and put this country on a path of recovery and prosperity. It won’t be pretty but it needs to be done.
I think the question for each of us is what can we do to help? I think the best place to start is with a complete change of mindset about diversity. There has been a push for years to celebrate diversity or to take pleasure in the things that separate us. Instead of diversity, we need to think unity. Let’s celebrate the things that bring us together. Let’s find common ground.
Let’s respect that we are all human beings and that this planet is the only home we have. We need to share it, honor it and take care of it. We do that by first taking care of each other. We are all part of one large living entity that includes plants, animals, humans, soil, air and sea. If one part gets sick, all parts suffer. The human race is sick and we see that reflected in nature.
The longer we go on hating and hurting the worse things are going to be. The polarizing attitudes in America today only make us weaker. Instead of being red or blue we need to find more purple in our lives. Let’s learn to live with more personal responsibility and dignity and quit placing blame and expecting to be taken care of.
Black Lives Matter and Police Lives Matter need to understand that all lives matter. Illegal immigrants need to realize that they are lawbreakers and are subject to the appropriate penalties. At the same time, this nation of immigrants needs to be more accommodating in its immigration laws. We do need to secure our borders from those who would harm us but we should also be welcoming to those who would help us. Fear builds walls but friendship builds bridges.
If we want better healthcare, we need a system that is focused on the preventative side rather than the more costly reactive side. Let’s put our resources into making food healthier and more natural, limiting portion sizes and drastically reducing our sugar intake. If we’re going to offer payments for medical care, why not instead help pay for gym memberships, building bicycle lanes in our cities and finding ways of getting people away from their TVs and computers and onto their front porches and sidewalks? It’s one thing to sit in front of a screen all day and snipe at each other on social media over political ideology. It’s quite another to do it face-to-face over the back fence or a cup of coffee.
If there is one thing I have learned after eight years of the Obama administration is that we can disagree without being disagreeable. There are a lot of things he did and tried to do that I don’t like but I’m not going to express myself by rioting. Real, positive change comes through civil discourse and is often expressed at the ballot box.
It is my hope that the fires of 2016 can be extinguished and that something beautiful can bloom from the ashes in 2017. But that can’t happen as long as we continue to trample on one another.
I want to end this column with the same quote that I used in another column last July.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.