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The Year in Bummers, from R to Z

All good things must come to an end. Last of four dejecting parts.

Steve Burgess 29 Dec 2016TheTyee.ca

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

All good things must come to an end. But enough about the vice-presidency of Joe Biden — we’re also at the end of our four-part alphabetical list of 2016 bummers.

R

RIP — Possibly the three most overworked letters of 2016. There was such a variety of death you could customize your tribute stream. While the mainstream mourners opted for the obvious departed celebrities, you could go boutique with specialized categories: Scottish football players (Ian Cowan, Tommy McCulloch, and Jim Gillespie), or classic rockers (two-thirds of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer). Perhaps you preferred a hipster theme like European cinematographers (Vilmos Zsigmond, Raoul Coutard) or ‘70s sitcom stars (Florence Henderson of The Brady Bunch, Abe Vigoda and Ron Glass of Barney Miller). The upside is that 2017 should be relatively death-free. Surely there’s not many left.

Republicans — All the justifiable angst about Trump almost makes you forget that any other Republican would have been significantly awful. Not quite as terrifying as having this caffeinated squirrel manning the nuclear button, but awful nonetheless. After all, the runner-up for the nomination was Senator Ted Cruz. A Republican who actually has a clue can be every bit as scary as one who doesn’t.

S

Snow — SNOW!! AAAAAAAAAGH!! Purty, though.

Supreme Court — Donald Trump will appoint the next U.S. Supreme Court justice. And if God is really the Republican asshole Pat Robertson claims He is, maybe two or three of them.

I’m sorry... I just can’t. I need a moment.

Syria — Five years on, and the horror continues unabated. An ongoing disaster on a scale that frankly stands in defiance to the very concepts of justice, hope, and optimism.

T

This letter should now be banned from the alphabet. Its 2016 crimes are too great. From now on, make him Presiden Rump.

U

United States — What are we to make of you, United States of America? You’ve always had your haters, and over the years there has been much to criticize in the double standards you often employ at home and abroad (“From napalm to nice guy,” as Iggy Pop once put it). But you’re still the best global superpower we’ve got. Those who pray for your demise give little thought to what might fill the vacuum in your absence. Yes, you often fall short but your ideals — and those who fight to uphold them — still inspire. You are the land of both Martin Luther King and the evils he fought. It is the very principles enshrined in your Constitution and Bill of Rights that cause you to be held to a higher standard by the world.

But God almighty, you are one hot mess right now. You seem hell-bent on confirming your critics’ worst depictions of you. Your government is soon to be in thrall to the kind of people who would burn the Constitution to save the flag. Things are looking dark.

But you still have the tools, America. Your political and legal institutions, your tradition of activism, your media — weakened but far from dead — and tens of millions of Americans who understand what truly makes the United States a great country. Good luck, pal. We’re counting on you.

V

Vancouver Real Estate — Prices are soaring out of control! Prices are plunging! Sorry, Playland, you no longer have the scariest roller coaster ride in Vancouver.

Vladimir Putin — Remember when we snickered at Putin’s shirtless poses and transparent staged stunts? In 2016, Russia’s president gets the last laugh. He invades and destabilizes his neighbours. His planes slaughter innocents in Syria. He is arguably the most dangerous man in the world. And now his alleged meddling in the U.S. election has paid off in a way that no dystopian futurist could ever have predicted.

How did the Republican Party go from Ronald “Evil Empire” Reagan to Donald “Will Putin become my new best friend” Trump? “Our nation has been the target of hostile Russian intelligence efforts for decades. That’s nothing new,” independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin said recently. “What’s new is that our leaders have become so self-serving that they’re willing to sacrifice our national security for their own power.”

Or to quote a tweet from San Francisco native Micah Weinberg: “Impressive come-from-behind victory for Russia in the Cold War.”

W

Wikileaks — Who watches the watchers? Wikileaks, that’s who. Julian Assange, hero of the people, pulling back the veil from America’s sordid security apparatus through the release of secret documents and videos.

And who watches the watchers of the watchers? Hey, let’s not get paranoid here. If American covert operations are bad, that makes Wikileaks the good guys by default, right? At least until they become Russian stooges and actively engage in the sabotage of the Hillary Clinton campaign. It’s almost enough to make one rethink the practice of according hero status to anyone whose questionable activities happen to temporarily align with your own politics. (See also: Republicans and Putin).

X

X-Files — It was nice to see the show return and reclaim its Vancouver roots. Alas, the results suggest you can’t go home again. At least they’ll get another shot in 2017. And we can use the work.

Y

Y chromosome — Another big year for the Y chromosome. 45th presidential victory in a row! Wooooo! Thanks to that magical Y, a nitwit who boasts about sexual assault beats a supremely competent woman with two email servers. Apparently tens of millions of American voters will always choose one boob over two.

Meanwhile, misogyny had another banner year with women in various spheres of public life subjected to torrents of vicious abuse delivered via the anonymity of social media. That’s just the way it is, missy. Don’t ask Y.

Z

Zika — 2016 saw a total of 386 Zika virus infections in Canada, 382 acquired abroad and four transmitted from infected persons. Checking five-year totals, the number of Canadian deaths caused by the Zika virus has not yet matched the number of fatalities caused by flying bears. Still, perhaps it would be best if you stayed indoors next year. Just to be safe.

So long, 2016. Perhaps the scariest thing is the very real prospect that one day we’ll look back on you as the good old days.

Feel free to add your own R to Z bummers in the comment thread.  [Tyee]

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