January 1, 2016 | The New Year is typically a time for optimism, for turning over a new leaf, for making a fresh start. Not so now. It's hard to be optimistic when so many awful things happened in the last year and when 2016 looks like it will get worse — much worse — before it gets better. If it gets better.
The litany of horrible things is lengthy:
The rise of ISIS and their particular brand of savagery that includes cutting off the heads of their enemies and videotaping the gruesome event for all the world to see.
ISIS-inspired terrorism in our own country, carried out by a husband and wife team who slaughtered many of his work colleagues, a group that had celebrated his marriage.
Gun violence continuing unabated, accounting for over 30,000 deaths each year.
Fatal police shootings, often of unarmed black men and boys, and a legal system apparently unable to recognize excessive and unnecessary use of deadly force when it sees it. Despite video.
Trumpmania, which has turned the Repugnican presidential primary process on its end and unleashed and legitimized the racism, sexism, whatever-ism, and xenophobia that has long been part of the American ethos.
One could go on. On the other hand, I had one cataract removed in 2015, an eye-popping success. It's a miracle! I can see again. And everything is not overlaid with a layer of yellow. The second eye will be done in January, and that's something to look forward to (pun intended).
The litany of things that are likely to get worse in 2016 is also lengthy:
The presidential campaign, already really ugly on the Repugnican side, will certain get uglier. Trump, despite many predictions to the contrary, continues to ride high in the polls, far ahead of his other rivals. His rivals have begun to snipe at each other, hoping to be the last non-Trump candidate standing. And Trump, anticipating the general election against Hillary Clinton, has already resurrected Monica Lewinsky as ammunition against Bill Clinton, simply because he intends to campaign for Hillary. Can Whitewater, Troopergate, Paula Jones, and Vince Foster be far behind?
The anti-immigrant frenzy can only get worse. Already a Muslim family from Britain on their way to vacation at Disneyland was blocked from boarding a plane to the US. Already a Guatemalan marching band was denied visas to participate in the Rose Bowl Parade on January 1st. They had previously marched in 2010. No reason, just "no." This sort of thing is sure to continue.
There will certainly be more mass shootings. Perversely, every time there is one, gun sales spike when rabid "enthusiasts" work themselves into a frenzy over imminent (and imaginary) plans to confiscate all their guns.
There will certainly be more police killings. Police forces have been turned into occupying armies, armed like armies, believing that citizens — particularly those with black or brown skin — are enemies. We'll see more of these because of the ubiquity of cellphone cameras and growing adoption of dashcams and bodycams, but it is obvious that cameras are not much of a deterrent when police close ranks to protect each other (instead of citizens) and prosecutors and grand juries give them a get-out-of-jail card.
The wealthy are going to become even wealthier while the poor get poorer and the middle class disappears. Virtually every piece of legislation is larded with goodies that make life better for those rich enough to buy their way into the process. There's nothing on the horizon that promises to disrupt that pattern.
These are perilous times for our country. Too much of public discourse is reality-free and fact-free, and in the absence of facts and a grasp on reality, emotion rules. Right now our country is in the grip of fear itself. Monsters are hiding under every bed. There's a bogey man around every corner. People spouting nonsense get all the free media time they want, and no one seems capable of pulling the plug or demanding responsibility.
So yes, it's time to celebrate the new year. But it's also time to stop and take a deep breath.