On the lighter side.
Time travel twenty years into the past all the way back to the days leading up to the 1996 presidential election. Tell those Americans of mid-90s past that exactly twenty years from then, we will decide whether the World Series champion Chicago Cubs will be welcomed to the White House by President Hillary Clinton or by President Donald Trump a year after the first black president welcomed the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers to the White House. Have fun deciding what part of that previous sentence is the least believable to typical mid-90s Americans.
On the darker side.
If you want to lay it on even thicker, tell those mid-90s Americans that it will be the second time since then that the winner of the popular vote did not get elected.
When I think of a metaphor for the year 2016, Homer Simpson attempting to jump the Springfield Gorge comes to mind.
I use this metaphor because I am sympathetic to the popular sentiment that 2016 was a rough year for many. This year of widespread emotional distress was fueled by the apparent rise in international conflicts, political events such as Brexit and the U.S. presidential election, celebrity deaths, and the evident spike in personal setbacks in the lives of friends and acquaintances I follow on social media.
Will 2017 be different?
I am unsure whether the world became a fundamentally different place in 2016 or if the world has simply become more transparent to the pain and suffering that existed all along. But I will lean in this direction:
If you believe 2016 or any arbitrary length of time is responsible, you're in for a rude awakening since 2017 has no reason to be different.— Raymond Stone (@RaymondStone) December 27, 2016
Making sense of celebrity deaths.
People die. Celebrities are people. Therefore, celebrities die. That is called deductive reasoning. So no, 2016 did not take those celebrities, but I understand enough about language, communication, and human emotion to not harshly judge those who dolefully claim it did.
Trying to make sense of western politics.
During the Republican primaries, the most unfavorable candidate in presidential election history ran against dozens of other GOP challengers. This candidate became historically unfavorable by running what many perceived as an openly racist, sexist, bigoted, xenophobic campaign. The voters of that party nominated that historically unpopular candidate. Conventional wisdom suggested that all the rival party needed to do was nominate a reasonably favorable relatively baggage- and scandal-free candidate to ride a ten-point landslide into the White House.
However, during the Democratic primaries, the most unfavorable candidate in the party’s history ran against a small handful of low profile challengers. This candidate became enormously unfavorable by running a campaign based on identity politics and platitudes, and by being an establishment candidate on record for being on both sides of so many issues that Americans simply lost trust. This candidate’s toughest primary challenger rose from a 60-point deficit to gain overwhelming support from millennials, crucial Rust Belt voters, and disgruntled Americans desperately wanting to throw a brick through the establishment. The voters of that party nominated the historically unfavorable establishment candidate.
Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
Then there is that whole Brexit thing, but I will not go into that since it is a bit out of scope for this post, but it did inspire the election prediction I made back in June:
Top Google searches in Feb 2017:— Raymond Stone (@RaymondStone) June 24, 2016
1. Who is Trump?
2. What is a president?
3. How do I move to Canada?
4. Who won the Super Bowl?#Brexit
The pattern is that a staggering percentage of the population does not follow matters to logical conclusions. Take sports for example.
We were reminded that sports curses do not exist.
The Chicago Cubs won their first World Series championship since 1908 and the Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA championship since the beginning of their franchise in 1970. People will claim those teams broke their “curses” as if a greater meaning to generations of bad fortunes existed. But the sports curse is not a thing.
Each American professional sports league has around thirty teams. Evenly distributing championships to each and every team means the most recent champion must wait thirty years before winning its next championship, leading many fans in today’s sports climate to consider that team cursed. And that is an example of perfect parity, which does not exist in the real world.
In the real world some organizations are simply ran better than others. This often leads to a small handful of organizations winning most of the championships during a generation while other teams must wait multiple generations to seriously contend, but only after they are able to field superior teams. Mathematically, every sport will have a collection of teams with long championship droughts since the odds of fielding the best team are about 1-in-30, which means the average championship drought should be thirty years. Statistics gurus can feel free to clear that up for me in the comments.
People love to attach greater meaning to things. I am agnostic so I don’t share this tendency. I believe basically everything can potentially be explained logically, whether or not we have discovered the explanations we can believe to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt. I don’t believe 2016 is fundamentally different enough than any other year to be remarkable in a spiritual sense.
New Year’s resolutions.
The above gif is a metaphor for 2017 if we don’t change.
We should use this past year to examine and diagnose how we got here and how to better approach the future. We can begin by thinking with our heads and not our hearts.
It’s time we approach politics by being principled enough to care more about politicians’ policy positions than about physical features and personality traits that make us feel good about them. It’s time we become principled enough to not just play for certain teams, but to understand that the political parties we associate with are not always right. This past year I’ve witnessed alarming levels of support voters had for candidates who went against many of the values those voters claimed to have, but those voters vehemently supported them anyway because those candidates play for their teams.
This past election year is the first in which I’ve been just as annoyed by people in my own party as I am with people on the other side. And this is probably unfair of me, but when someone posts a statement of support for a candidate that includes either, “she’s not perfect” or “he’s not perfect,” I instinctively assume that candidate is more corrupt than most, or at least unusually flawed. I read many of these statements of support for various candidates long before the conventions, and we ended up with a general election between the two most unfavorable presidential candidates in history.
Attempting to keep this from getting too long I glossed over the ever-so-important gender, racial, and political tensions of this past year. So I should also mention that going forward every discussion we engage in should come from a place of empathy. Seek to understand before being understood. And lastly, every decision we make that affects others should come from a place of empathy. Really try to see the world through the eyes of others. I practice this every day, but we all have room to grow our empathic nuclei to the point where we feel what others feel. The world will become a much better place once we begin to see ourselves in others.
Apologies for being all over the place and not living up to the standard of my previous blogs. I wrote most of this while sleep deprived since I have other more pressing writing and business obligations demanding my attention, but I needed to dedicate a bit of mental bandwidth to getting a few incoherent 2016 thoughts out because...why not. Now to go offline to mope about having never in my life been invited to one of those holiday parties (or holiday events of any kind) I constantly see flaunted throughout social media this time of year. Maybe I would be invited to more if I just copy the vast majority of the social media world and stick to saying and showing things that make my peers feel good so I can be liked, haha. [Slurry sleepy voice]