When it comes to politics, 2016 has been a nightmare. This year’s winter holidays – ostensibly a time for family and friends, rest and recharging – will be celebrated under the long shadow of the reality that Donald Trump, barring some Hail Mary intervention, will be sworn in as President of the United States on Jan. 20, 2017. The idea of this ignorant, impulsive man-child at the helm of the declining, nuclear-armed empire to our south still feels like a terrible dream from which we can’t awaken.
Against hopelessness, then, let us remember at this time of Winter Solstice that just because it’s dark right now doesn’t mean the light is snuffed out for good. Not yet, anyway. Let us take hope from our collective history of struggle against long odds and seemingly omnipotent villains.
The deck is always stacked, but we have to organize and fight back anyway. That’s how progress happens. That’s why we have trade unions; that’s why our liberty to speak out and to dissent is protected by a Charter of Rights and Freedoms; that’s why women have the right to vote and to control their own bodies; that’s why everyone has the freedom to love and marry whomever they want.
It’s in this spirit that, rather than use this final column of the calendar year to enumerate and lament the tragedies and setbacks of 2016, I’d like to share some of my hopes and aspirations for 2017, for both B.C. and the world.
I hope that, in 2017, the global wave of xenophobic politics and hate crimes will be reversed, and that electorates and citizens around the world will recoil in horror at the intolerance unleashed by Trump’s victory. I hope that city and state governments in the United States will step up and do much more to protect LGBTQ and migrant communities from the wrath of an openly bigoted federal administration. And I hope that Canadians will shut down the over-the-top efforts by Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch, with her blatant anti-immigrant rhetoric, to bring Trumpism north.
I hope that in 2017 people around the world will finally force their governments to treat climate change like a global civilizational emergency. Rather than continuing to treat global warming as a secondary issue to be dealt with after parochial economic interests are looked after, I hope that people will come together across national borders to begin transforming our societies to avert catastrophe. Unless the climate scientists are almost all wildly wrong, this is the point in the movie when countries put aside their quarrels and differences and unite to save the planet. Climate change is a slow motion disaster, so it’s a bit of abstraction to understand the urgency, but I hope this year marks a great and overdue turning point for our species.
I hope that in 2017 the B.C. election campaign will result in a change of government in this province for the first time since 2001. Sixteen years is too long for almost any administration, and it’s especially so in the case of the B.C. Liberals. I hope that the media coverage of the election will, for once, not be dominated by a handful of the big corporate outlets in this province who have traditionally upheld the status quo. I hope that child poverty, homelessness, and the epidemic of drug fatalities are given prominence in the election campaign, because people are dying everyday on the streets of this province and this needs to stop, whether or not they’re swing voters in key ridings. And I hope that public education is never again treated as a political football, as it was when the B.C. government fired Vancouver’s elected school board trustees, and that our children’s most vital years of development and learning, including pre-kindergarten child care for all, are properly and equitably funded at last.
This is an admittedly big wish list for 2017, and I daresay this might even seem deluded after the dismal past 12 months we’ve lived through. As the old saying has it, sometimes it’s darkest right before the dawn. At the very least, the gathering dark clouds of xenophobia and hate should make us resolve to fight that much harder for the light.
On Sunday, we got a reminder that when you resist you sometimes win. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would not be granting permits for the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline across the territory of the Standing Rock Sioux, where people have led a fierce resistance over the past months. On the same day, in Europe, came a great relief: Austria’s far right was defeated in the rerun of that country’s presidential elections.
These are welcome signs of hope, and reminder as we head into the New Year: Sometimes the good guys and gals do win