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Here’s to 2018

<erusing my Facebook timeline the other day to distract myself from the impending doom that is summer job applications, I came across a rather pessimistic headline. Don’t get used to the idea that 2018 will be better than 2017, it said, because it’ll probably be worse.

Recalling last year, that seems hard to imagine. 2017 brought us the beginning of the Trump presidency, the most unpopular administration in modern American history; the hottest year on record (yet again); irrational brinkmanship with China, Iran, and North Korea; irrational coziness with Russia and the Philippines; ratcheting American military imperialism across the world; a draconian tax bill that threatens to worsen our two-class system; unabated police brutality against black, brown, and transgender people; a record-breaking hurricane season on the Gulf of Mexico; an equally record-breaking fire season in California; the deadliest mass shooting in American history (again); and far, far more.

Most of 2017’s news was not good, to say the least.

What is disheartening is that we thought the same about 2016. At the end of that year, in one viral video clip, late-night comedian John Oliver blew up an enormous effigy bearing the number, “2016.”

That was the year that brought us the deaths of David Bowie, Prince, and Carrie Fisher; the Pulse nightclub mass shooting; the Nice terrorist attacks; and of course, the election of Donald Trump, among many other tragedies, of course.

In fact, if one Googles “bad things that happened in,” autofill first completes the phrase with 2017, followed immediately by 2016. It seems our luck has not improved in a year.

Yet at the end of 2016, we were just as optimistic. The year had been rough, in many cases due to events that seemed like flukes, and we hoped nothing so flagrant would taint the next year. Trump would be impeached, maybe. The Republican Party would implode.
Of course, that did not happen, and we left 2017 no better off as a nation or world than before, but rather much, much worse. 2017 is fresh in our minds now. It’s easy to remember what went wrong, as I listed above. There’s no way 2018 can be so bad.



Well, I don’t want to be a pessimist. Pessimism encourages complacency. In this midterm year, it’s more important than ever to remain hopeful about what we can accomplish, even when facing down the trainwrecks that are contemporary local, state, national, and global politics. For instance: we can, should, and must vote this year, if we want to make 2019 better than 2018.

As for 2018, there’s a difference between optimism and hope. We can hope for a better year. However, we shouldn’t expect things to turn out for the best this year, because they probably won’t.

The midterm elections aren’t until November, so we’re conceivably stuck with a Republican congress at least until then. Even if the House and Senate do flip, which isn’t something we can take for granted, they won’t turn over until 2019 anyway. And this says nothing of the systemic injustices that even a solid-blue Congress can’t fix overnight.

Chances are, we’ll be stuck with a President Trump (or maybe a President Pence, who would be no better). Considering most of Trump’s most significant actions have not been legislative, I can’t imagine either case would bode much better, even with divided government.
Regardless of what happens, speculation about 2018 does little for us now. Any ideas we come up with now will only disappoint us later when the world throws us another curveball. It’s presumptuous to assume specific good things (or specific bad things) will happen just because they’re probable. Almost no one expected Bowie, Prince, or Fisher to die, or Trump to win, and in the end, surprising events like that ruined 2016 and 2017.

Instead of going into 2018 expecting it to be better, let’s hope for the best possible year—and do everything in our power to make it as good as we can, where we can. Trump will almost surely still be here, but so will we, and our collective votes and voices count for a lot more than his.

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