by Ana Mangini
An open letter to my future kids about the real importance of 2017.
Dear Future Kids,
First and foremost, if you don’t understand the significance of the title of this article I have failed you. Kylie Jenner, imma let you finish, but 2017 was the real year of realizing things. *If confused, see reference.*
Now that that’s settled, let’s put pop culture references and memes aside. Let me start by saying that 2017 is hard to explain. It was a year plagued by socio-political unrest: President Trump’s time thus far in office was marked by controversies. North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un successfully tested nuclear weapons. Brexit was still a thing despite the entire world’s collective side eye. Net Neutrality was repealed by the FCC. Hate crimes, terrorism, war, unrest, refugee crises, immigration issues, racism, sexism, gun violence…and so, so much more.
When thinking back, 2017 seems horrible. It tends to feel like the world entered some sort of wormhole, transporting Earth to an awful alternate dimension where representation, information, and protestation lost meaning.
It was a year where people spoke up and felt unheard. It was a year where our representatives failed to represent. It was a year where racism and sexism appeared everywhere.
Really, on the surface, 2017 could best be described as a rollercoaster that could not be reasoned with. Buckle up and get ready to scream. In actuality, 2017 was so much more than the multidimensional clusterfuck it seemed to be.
So, what made 2017 so important?
2017 was a year of discussion. It was a year where the floodgates of conversation opened wide and an outpouring of learning guided society.
One of the most recent examples of this is the #MeToo movement, a movement for social change and justice in which victims of sexual harassment and assault came forward to share their stories. A community of speakers and listeners formed through this movement, calling for a transformation socially and politically to prevent the crimes and cover-ups of the past from permeating the future.
It would be easy to shrug this movement off as something negative…something that dredged up the past and made every seemingly trustworthy public figure into a villain. (That is a bad take.) The #MeToo movement, along with other social change movements, uncovered preexisting, prevalent issues that affect millions of people every day.
Preexisting. That word is important. Society was already fucked up before 2017. The difference is, moderators of media and social majorities were not really engaging in the necessary conversations. (While these topics had been discussed for years by victims and minorities who experience these aggressions to a greater extent, they have only recently been given a prominent voice in mainstream media and amongst social majorities.) Maybe we needed social media to create this platform for conversation, but maybe we just weren’t ready to discuss the unappealing subjects in the past.
This could be attributed to the fact that history has taught us which things should not be discussed, that, to varying degrees, there was always an underlying expectation of silence. Sexism isn’t sexy. Racism isn’t polite to bring up at the dinner table. The lessons of silence were ingrained in us at a young age: “Don’t pick a fight,” and “We don’t talk about that,” were our parents’ mottos.
This conversation was largely regarded as contentious. In a society that practices silence, it makes sense that speech would be characterized as a rebellious act, as something tense, negative, or even aggressive. At the end of the day, the conversation coming out of 2017 is a step in the right direction, even if you don’t agree with the opinions at the forefront of each movement.
Moreover, in 2017, to participate in society was to participate in the discussion. Through social media and the news, a community grew which guided us as a nation towards understanding our issues and demanding change.
Politics was made popular. People began to care again. These outcomes, distinctly positive, cannot be overlooked in the discussion of this year.
When describing these changes, I think theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said it best:
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
I believe that in 2017 many practiced wisdom. If you can take anything away from this year, know that we determined what was wrong and decided to speak out; we realized so many things. Going forward, I can only hope that the world acts with the courage to enact necessary change.
With love and hope for the future,