It is nearly the end of December in the United States, as well as elsewhere presumably, not that anyone would know it for the introspective turmoil that has convulsed the country for the past twelve months. Something bizarre may have occurred before this piece goes to print, eclipsing all previous events, but it is nevertheless worth recapping the most important moments of 2017.
20 January, a mere three weeks into the New Year, and perhaps the most anticipated inauguration ceremony in American history took place in Washington, D.C., in front of a crowd whose size is still a topic of contention eleven months later.
"Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods," Chuck Todd tells Pres. Trump's counselor Kellyanne Conway this morning. WATCH: pic.twitter.com/Ao005dQ13r
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) January 22, 2017
Not to be outdone, millions of Americans took to the streets to protest the result of the presidential election in November of the previous year, which saw Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton win the popular vote, but lose to Republican candidate Donald Trump in the electoral college. Thus began a period in American history which perhaps will one day be referred to as “Lifting the Veil”, in which every preconceived notion we had about the staples of our society and culture have come into question.
First up on this list of veiled items was the National Football League. Though it had been bubbling ever-so-slightly, conversations about this most-American of sports had gradually begun shifting toward issues of social justice and health concerns.
Colin Kaepernick, former San Fransisco 49ers quarterback and activist, kneeled during the playing of the American National Anthem, saying that he would not stand for the national anthem until the American flag “represents what it’s supposed to represent.” His lone protestation in September 2016 gained mainstream traction this year, setting alight a conversation about race in the United States, particularly after the president began calling for kneeling players to be fired by their teams.
But the sport also came under fire on medical grounds. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE as it is more commonly known, is a form of degenerative head injury, common amongst former NFL players, which was found in the brain of Aaron Hernandez after his suicide in March of this year. He was a former wide receiver for the New England Patriots who was found not guilty of double murder just five days before his death. The NFL, having renewed commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract, now stands at a crossroads, with its future uncertain.
Public displays of violence
If it were ever in question before, the commitment of congressional actors to enacting gun control legislation has been entirely proven false after a single man in Las Vegas shot over 600 people at a concert, killing 59, days after after a man entered a church in Texas and killed 26. These two incidences are in addition to another 305 mass shootings that took place in the United States in 2017.
On each occasion Congress did nothing, save sending their “thoughts and prayers”. A mass shooting, for those counting, is loosely defined by Congress as an event which “targets indiscriminately” and kills anywhere from two to four people. There were 307 mass shootings in just 310 days of 2017.
Sticking with the theme of violence, white supremacists marched on Charlottesville to protests at the removal of a statue of civil war general, Robert E. Lee. They were wielding, of all things, Tiki Torches, which is one of many corporations looking to undergo some rebranding in 2018. Though we had been sold an image of a post-racial America, one of those participating in the march drove his car into a crowd, killing one person and injuring another nineteen. Other participants wielded firearms openly, including one who was caught on film firing shots at a black man from close range.
When it rains, it pours
Not to be upstaged by human antics, Mother Nature decided to take her best swing at the United States in 2017, with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria bearing down on Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico respectively. Puerto Rico, whose citizens can hold American passports and are, for all intents and purposes, as American as any other American, was most devastated by Irma and Maria, but today, most of the island is still without power.
Luckily, due to the collective American spirit and our desire to help one another, Puerto Rico was saved from any major loss of life – that was until an official report emerged last week. It placed the death toll not at 64, which had been the original figure cited, but at over 1,000. Similar tales of the inadequacy of the recovery effort after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas were also widely reported.
October brought us a fresh batch of outrage and shame, as a piece published by The New York Times accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexually assaulting his former colleagues and employees. This sparked a wave of further accusations that, unbelievably, a community of people in Hollywood, who have gained fame and power via a process which requires them to pretend to be something different from what they are in the most believable way possible, is somehow not as genuine as we may have once thought. At the expense of article space, there is one way to summate those accused of the past few months: almost everyone. Remember that veil that was being lifted?
Hope on the horizon?
It is not all bad, however. There are, perhaps, glimmers of hope. Recent months have unearthed scandal in Washington. Michael Flynn, former National Security Adviser (or, as the administration calls him, “Liar, liar pants on fire”), was indicted and plead guilty to charges of lying to the FBI, which President Trump reminded us was the reason he fired him, months after knowing he lied, but definitely because he lied.
And now, with the year truly on its last legs, Green Party candidate Jill Stein is under scrutiny for possible collusion with Russia by the House Intelligence Committee. Major tax reform has been rushed through Congress; it’s heaped billions onto the budget deficit but has left Wall Street delighted. At least Charles Manson died in November. But, then again, OJ’s also out on parole.
The year in quotes
– Alternative facts?! Alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.
Exchange between Kellyanne Conway and Chuck Todd.
They will be met with fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen.
Donald Trump on the North Korean nuclear threat.
Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on Donald Trump.
“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center.”
Bob Corker, Republican senator from Tennessee
That’s a hell of a way to lose weight, Steve.
Donald Trump to Republican congressman Steve Scales, who was shot and critically wounded by a gunman earlier this year