It’s finally over. A fresh start. You could almost say, if you turn off the news, that the horrors of 2016 aren’t still lurking in the shadows of our clean, practically untouched slate. I think we all have certain words that come to mind when we think of 2016. Perhaps disappointing, divided, disastrous. It was a shocking year for the UK and the US, no matter what side you were rooting for. As a young Brit who was devastated after the UK’s Brexit result, I can only sympathize with American friends who feel ashamed of the country where they were born and raised. Just like Brexit, Trump was a joke. He was a threat that never felt real. His claims of building the infamous wall and stopping all Muslims from entering the USA were so ludicrous it was almost funny. Almost.
It’s time to look forward, not back. I’m not suggesting we be brazen enough to predict how this year will end but what we can do is celebrate what good comes our way.
The elites in both the US and the UK used the people to consolidate their power. Both campaigns homed into the anger building up in certain areas of society and channelled this towards something very dangerous. We must never forget those who were pushed to the side-lines by Brexit and Trump, excluded and made to feel unwelcome in their country. For those of us who feel there is no hope anymore, we absolutely cannot stop trying. To stop trying is to give in to this discourse of fear. When you think of the world you want your children, grandchildren and their children to grow up to see, be encouraged that there is still time to make a change. Trump may be a disaster, but four years is not a lifetime. We have had months to mourn what feels like the loss of a progressive America, but it’s a new year. And with this new year we can be disheartened by 2016’s atrocities, or we can be inspired. We can learn from the lessons of our adolescent lifetime and become a generation of change that this world seems so desperately to need.
It’s time to look forward, not back. I’m not suggesting we be brazen enough to predict how this year will end but what we can do is celebrate what good comes our way. What other choice to do we have? Isn’t it an old saying that misery merely attracts misery? We may feel that the world is a much scarier place than it was 50 years ago, but the reality is we are just much more exposed. Despite the harrowing scenes we see from Aleppo, Yemen and Burma to name a few, we also have a much higher number of functioning democracies than we did forty years ago. Terrorism may seem like it’s on our front door, but the reality is it’s further away than ever and lower than it was between the 1970s and 1990s.
Whether you agree with their policies or not, women are at the forefront of British politics. Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood, Natalie Bennett. These four female leaders should give us hope that things are finally changing for women in politics. Angela Merkel continues to dominate European politics and Arlene Foster is the first women to be First Minister in Northern Ireland. Of course there is room for hundreds of improvements, maybe even thousands, but we must accept this as a positive step. We should look forward to many more women striding confidently into the good old boys’ clubs in 2017.
Things are even looking up for emerging markets since the end of last year. Global GDP growth is expected to see a boost. The UK has sustained the post-Brexit environment and is expected to grow faster than we previously had thought. The prices of houses rose, the public kept buying and businesses kept going. The economy will only keep growing and wages for the lowest paid workers over the age of 25 will even rise from £7.20 an hour to £7.50.
I’m sorry that none of these things are going to erase your memory of Trump, walking on that stage in New York, to claim his title of President-elect. Instead, they should teach us to fight for our causes and never let the mistakes we made this last year be repeated. We have to believe that hope is on the horizon. And if that doesn’t comfort you, I can promise you that we will never have another 2016 again.