2016: The worst year ever?
“Farewell, 2016”—you won’t be missed, said Mark Salter in Real ClearPolitics.com. As the world enters a new year, few people will be sad to see the back of the last, “considering the deaths, tragedies, and various calamities for which it will be most remembered.” The horrific slaughter in Syria grew worse, while “Islamic extremists managed to murder innocent people regularly”—at a Berlin Christmas market, an Orlando nightclub, and in a brutal truck attack in Nice, France. Brexit shocked Europe, the cold war with Russia resumed, the Zika epidemic struck the southern hemisphere, and global temperatures soared to a record high. We also lost an unusually large number of beloved cultural figures, said Ryan Bort in Newsweek.com, including David Bowie, Prince, and Muhammad Ali. And to top it off, “all of this took place against the rage-filled backdrop of the 2016 presidential election,” which ended with the victory of an “unhinged reality show host and admitted groper of women.” No doubt about it: 2016 was the “Worst Year Ever.”
By whose standards? said Sam Sanders in NPR.org. While liberals were wringing their hands on social media last week about 2016, the rest of the country was celebrating the end of a good year.
That includes the “millions of Americans whose wages went up” or who got jobs. Extreme poverty across the world was down, and while global unrest is a constant phenomenon, “the vast majority of Americans lived lives free from any direct personal effects” of either terrorism or war. As for the election, well, “for the nearly 63 million voters who supported Donald Trump, maybe this wasn’t a bad year at all.”
For our increasingly pessimistic world, “every year is the worst ever”—until the next, said Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker. Perhaps that’s a function of the internet—of being unable to escape the “relentless emotional bombardment” of alarming news stories and divisive social media posts about politics, terrorism, and war. But there’s another reason many people ended 2016 in an anxious state, said Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. “Part of the collective shudder we are experiencing is the fear of the unknown—2017.” Will right-wing, nationalist parties take over Europe? Will the unpredictable Trump behave like “a madman, setting off wars and eviscerating American institutions?” People are thinking, “Things could get a lot worse”— and they may be right.