It was probably a trickling effect this 2016. That trickle was relentless though and soon it started weighing down the New Year balloon we all lived in (for what; a day!?!) until it burst into a drenching flood and drowned some of our favorite hopes. We lost allot of things this past year. We lost allot of people we admired too. I can only ponder what I was able to understand, because in the end I was hoodwinked by an election process that left most of us numb and a little amazed. Lets take a look back.
The water reference reminds me of one of this year’s earliest stories; the Flint Michigan water crisis. It symbolized so many things about this nation’s crumbling infrastructure and the attempt to privatize what should be a public trust. The blame was passed around but when the shit hit the fan in mid January (The President declared a state of emergency) the plea of the hundreds of residents whose water was literally discolored with high levels of lead causing fears of future health risk, had finally resulted in indictments being handed down for some city officials. Mark my words, water is in trouble whether from fracking or drought. We could see "water wars" as savvy investors have already began looking to control the preservation of this dwindling resource.
Newborn children from Brazil suffered underdeveloped heads (along with other health issues) at what almost became a world health crisis; the Zika virus. Mosquitoes carry the disease which in some cases could be transmitted sexually. Zika also caused miscarriages and paralysis called Guillain-Barré syndrome. It threatened the summer Olympics and so far cases in Texas and Florida have been reported, yet the World Health Organization claims that they have a cap on it.
And speaking of children, nothing could be crueler than the exterminations in Syria and the bombing of Aleppo which took civilian lives. Fifty thousand of those were children. One of the more compelling photographs of 2016 was of a small 5 year old boy covered in debris and completely shell shocked after surviving an air bombing. With help from Russia (who lost their ambassador in an assassination) Assad was able to seize the city after a five year standoff with rebel forces.
Terrorism has not been dormant this past 365. Whether it be a lone wolf like the Pulse nightclub shooter or the horrific attacks such as the January siege by al Qaeda-linked militants on a popular tourist hotel in Burkina Faso, in West Africa, that left nearly 30 people dead, the message was clear; no place is safe and no target is off limit. Just days ago in Berlin Germany twelve people were killed and many more injured when a hijacked truck drove into a crowd of innocent pedestrians reminding us of last July’s Bastille Day celebration where a vehicle turned weapon killed 86 before it could be stopped. The new term is called “soft targets” and has room for expansion in any free society where people gather.
The media became its own news story in 2016. The need to be first against the competition made for some pretty sad hyperbole being spewed at a news weary public. It didn't help that legitimate news sources were being challenged by sites that looked like real news (on the internet every one looks the same) but contained what amounts to rumors and urban myths and became known as "fake news". But so called legitimate news sources had their moments too. Most notably the over-coverage of now President elect Trump and the under-coverage of the candidate that could have beaten him; Bernie Sanders. Not to mention an almost media blackout on the coverage of the North Dakota Pipeline protestors who were being abused by so called public law officials to protect big oil's investment on fracking. Oh yeah, and they got the election wrong as far as results and understanding why Trump beat Clinton. It was like the majority of states gave a big fuck you to mainstream media news.
Facebook and Twitter have finally found their place as the new mainstream media source. While Twitter became a legitimate political platform (and the communication of choice for President elect Trump) Facebook's live feature showed the world Philando Castile's girlfriend streaming the immediate aftermath of his shooting death with a panicking police officer still screaming and their young child witnessing in the back of the car. Facebook live also played an important coverage of the atrocities being perpetrated by the peaceful water protector protestors. But before I give them too much credit, it should also be pointed out that the highest viewed Live broadcast(150,000,000) was Chewbacca Mask Mom laughing contagiously and capturing viral audiences when it was transferred to YouTube.
The whole year was overshadowed by the election of course. We should have seen it coming with the Brexit vote for England to leave the European Union. Globalism took a hit from those who watched jobs being spread throughout poorer countries whose workforce were hungry for lower wages. The haves did not benefit over the have nots as they watched with distain as China, Mexico and India took their jobs. The British were sick of immigration too and were fearful that the horrible terrorism in France and Belgium would spread with non vetted Muslims entering from destabilized regions in the Middle East. The Union Jack values of what was perceived as a not so Great Britain was depleting their traditional way of life. Sound familiar? Even Michael Moore conceded that nationalism had taken hold across the USA and could see a Trump victory. The Russians apparently helped by hacking into both the DNC and GOP campaign databases and only released damaging e-mails from Hillary Clinton's camp. FBI director Comey released a red herring investigation announcement two weeks prior to the election that seemed to be the November surprise that was the final nail to many undecided voters. Or maybe Hillary was just tone deaf to the American chord the electorate was listening to. After all, Teflon Don had supposedly shot himself in the foot with his University, bus and pussygate and questions about illegal charity spending and still came out unscathed while just a bout of pneumonia posed doubts about Clinton's health and ability to serve. It didn't matter in the end when the electoral map showed Trump had shown better initiative and (to quote himself) "energy" in campaigning to a cross section of the country even though Clinton got the popular vote by almost 3 million votes.
Finally though, what defined 2016 was the deaths. Celebrity passings were at an all time high. In just the last few days we've lost Zsa Zsa Gábor, Alan Thicke, George Micheal, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds. But David Bowie and Prince in one year!?! Glen Frey of the Eagles? It may have started with the shooting of a silver back gorilla named Harambe who became a sign of what was to come.
In January besides Bowie and Frey we lost Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber and Professor Snape, Dan Haggerty (Grizzly Adams), Abe Vigoda (Fish), Paul Kantner(Jefferson Airplane founder). In February Bob Elliot (Bob & Ray), Maurice White (Earth Wind & Fire), supreme court Justice Antonin Scalia, To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee, country music legend Sonny James and actor George Kennedy.
March had the parade continue with Nancy Reagan, Beatle producer George Martin, Keith Emerson (ELP with Greg Lake also passing later in early December), Frank Sinatra Jr., Rob Ford (the crack smoking mayor of Toronto), Phife Dawg of a Tribe Called Quest, baseball and broadcasting great Joe Garagiola, actor Ken Howard (White Shadow), Earl Hamner who was the creator and narrator of The Waltons, Patty Duke and comedian Gary Shandling.
In April we lost Merle Haggard, Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond), and of course Prince. By May we would see the passing of singer Julius La Rosa and journalist Morley Safer (who had just retired from 60 Minutes a month before).
In June, the greatest, Muhammad Ali finally met his maker as well as hockey all star Gordie Howe. Scotty Moore the great rockabilly guitar player for Elvis and women's basketball winningest coach Pat Summit passed on.
July saw producer/writer director Garry Marshall (Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, Laverne & Shirly) die at 81. Actor and talk radio host Jerry Doyle was only 60.
August saw R2D2 actor Kenny Baker and the great comedic actor Gene Wilder depart. By September the great golfer and drink inventor Arnold Palmer was gone and we saw the tragic death of the Marlin's young (24) pitcher Jose Fernandez.
October came and we saw comedian Kevin Meaney and singer Bobby Vee meet the reaper. November took first woman Attorney General Janet Reno and the great poet musician Leonard Cohen. The man from Uncle, Robert Vaughn, Fidel Casto,famed musician's musician Leon Russell and even Brady Bunch star Florence Henderson are no longer living.
As the year ended it got no better. Besides the deaths I mentioned earlier astronaut and US Senator from Ohio John Glenn left us.
There were even more I could not fit here but they are people you'd probably have heard about. Then there were the unknowns; the traffic deaths that were finally outnumbered by Pharma opioids and heroin deaths comes to mind.
And what about you? What family member, pet or close friend did you lose this year?
So as my friend Mark Cutler so wonderfully wrote in one of his songs: "Say a prayer for all the souls who got lost along the way" in 2016 and hang on to the wheel of life. Happy New Year.
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