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The Year in Bummers, from A to E

Sorry optimists: 2016 was a rotten, rotten year. First of four dispiriting parts.

Steve Burgess 26 Dec

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

The alphabet has its drawbacks. As a vehicle for cataloguing the bummers of 2016, it’s too short. 26 letters? Not really enough to chronicle this rotten year, this endless failed Tinder date, this 12-month wedgie, this 366-day cod liver oil belch, this Adam Sandler of years. 2016 deserves a Viking funeral — it’s a year to be set on fire and pushed out to sea. Here then is The Tyee’s alphabetized bummer list. First of four primal-scream inducing parts:


Aleppo — Remember when U.S. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson said, “What’s Aleppo?” Don’t you envy him just a little?

Alt-right — 2016’s worst neologism, a way to describe racist, anti-Semitic, Muslim-hating, Sieg-Heiling brown shirts in a way that makes them sound vaguely like banjo-playing hipsters reinterpreting Flatt & Scruggs. Should properly be filed under “N.”


Brexit — From the birthplace of parliamentary democracy came an ominous June signal that a campaign of flagrant lies and xenophobia can sucker even a supposedly sophisticated body politic. See also: F for Farage, Nigel, and also suitable adjectives for his campaign.

Bowie — Nobody was ready to see him go. But say this for the great David Bowie — when on the day of your death your new album is the talk of the music world, and the New York Times is running an item about an upcoming Carnegie Hall tribute to you and your music, you just showed the world how a life can be lived to its last day.

Bannon/Breitbart — In the same way that a bus ride might introduce you to a companion who eats KFC and wipes his hands on the seat while telling you that immigrants are destroying this country, 2016 introduced us to Steve Bannon. Bannon, who ran Breitbart News before becoming Donald Trump’s top campaign advisor, subsequently blazed new trails for lunatic fringe agitators by being named chief strategist and senior counsellor in Trump’s administration. But remember, Bannon is not really a rabidly racist troll — he just played one on the Internet.


Christy Clark — Hey, it wasn’t all bad in 2016. Watching B.C. Premier Christy Clark get her behind handed to her by the Supreme Court of Canada was fun, wasn’t it?

Clickbait — There are 20 reasons why clickbait is ruining your life. You won’t believe #17!

Climate Change — This Chinese hoax will no longer be an issue, thank the Lord, especially now that dedicated denier Scott Pruitt is taking over as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. This Christmas, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been bad or good. Everybody’s getting coal.

Cohen — Like Bowie, Leonard Cohen showed us how it’s done, releasing an acclaimed album only weeks before his death. We may have lost him, but on the way out Cohen proved he had lost nothing.


Death — “Death, be not proud,” advised John Donne. But come on. The guy is having a career year. Death covered all the bases in 2016. Beloved actors like Alan Rickman, Garry Shandling and Gene Wilder, sports icons like Gordie Howe, Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer, broadcast journalists like Gwen Ifill and Morley Safer, musical icons like Prince, Bowie, Cohen, Beatles producer George Martin, popular superstars like Eagles co-founder Glen Frey, lesser known giants like Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire, Leon Russell, and Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane. (Death even had the flair and panache to kill off two founding members of the Airplane, Kantner and Signe Anderson, on the same day, January 28 — a Jefferson Airplane crash, in effect. Death is a comedian who always kills.)

Meanwhile Death painted with a broad brush in Syria and deployed his terrorist surrogates in Brussels, Nice, Istanbul, Paris and elsewhere. An entire Brazilian soccer team? Now you’re just showing off, asshole.

Duterte — Speaking of death-dealing maniacs, 2016’s true man of the year may be the newly elected president of the Philippines. Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign played out as though he and Trump had a secret bet to see who could perpetrate the most jaw-dropping outrage. Duterte surely collected on the bet. Referring to the rape and murder of a missionary that occurred while he was mayor of Davao City, Duterte reportedly joked that the greatest tragedy was that she was so beautiful that he should have “been first.” When his own daughter later said she was a rape victim he called her a “drama queen.” Duterte campaigned on a pledge to kill criminals and drug users. Since he took office at the end of June he has been as good as his word. Thousands have been murdered by police death squads, often for simple drug use, often for nothing more than suspicion. The man is a monster. And he has already been invited to the Trump White House.


Elections — Lots of people have slagged democracy over the years. Socrates didn’t like it. Machiavelli wasn’t fond. While it’s true that the type of democracy they were referring to differs from the hybrid forms western democracies use today, the same criticisms can still apply. Still, our societies embrace the principles of democracy and it’s important not to overreact simply because your team loses. The problem is, Americans just elected a president who told them up front he would not respect the result unless he won. Trump thus willingly defined himself as a wannabe tyrant. And the voters elected him president anyway. That is arguably the most disturbing 2016 reality of all.

Elites — They’re to blame. For everything.

Emails — In 1999, the original Blair Witch Project was a surprise hit and pop culture phenomenon. The film succeeded because it reminded people that things unseen are far more frightening than things visible. 2016 brought us a sequel. Not the quickly forgotten Blair Witch movie released last September — the real sequel played out via Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. While Donald Trump revealed himself to be a human house of horrors week after week, shattering behavioural standards previously expected not just of presidential candidates but also school bus drivers and warehouse security guards, Hillary Clinton had emails. What was in those much-covered, much-obsessed-about emails? Well, what was out in the woods in The Blair Witch Project? Unspeakable evil, that’s what. Let your imagination run riot. Say this much for Trump: he left nothing to the imagination.

Feel free to add your own A to E bummers in the comment thread. Tomorrow: F to I.  [Tyee]

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