Last November brought a change to the US – an election that split a nation, or more likely highlighted an existing crack in the unity of these proclaimed United States. Many therapists reported that many clients and were suffering from post-election anxiety; over the course of 2017, each day has had its stories about corruption, incompetence, election-tampering, potential collusion with Russia, musical chairs in the Presidential cabinet, tweets picking fights with members of Congress, Korea and (save a few favorites) the entire American press. Beyond the White House walls, there was pain: earthquakes and floods and wildfires; a confirmed 15,359 gun deaths (GunViolenceArchive.org) including mass shootings targeting concert-goers, churchgoers and travelers. Deportations and immigration bans divided families and America. Neo-Nazis marched in the streets, chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us,” while one drove into a crowd, killing a peaceful protester. And previously-admired leaders were hobbled or removed, as allegations of sexual assault – over decades, across many industries – emerged, a few at first, growing in number and volume each day.
But heroes did rise. There were everyday heroes who stepped up to rescue those who were in pain, running into burning buildings or pulling people from raging waters. There were political leaders who spoke up for justice, who championed causes that many had left behind, or who voted with conscience even if it was contrary to their party’s position. Journalists facing the denigration of their entire profession, being accused of shoddy or straight-up fake reporting, continued to do their jobs the best they could considering the sitting president had named them the “enemy of the American people.” And there were women who were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, showing up at rallies wearing pink hats, running for something, speaking their long-buried truths about abuse, harassment and assault, reclaiming their time and nevertheless, persisting.
And we had incredible entertainment keeping us company. Late-night comics went serious and political, taking “a closer look” and championing better health care. Randy Rainbow went into hyperproduction, churning out videos that were musically and politically inspired. Streaming services proliferated, giving traditional Hollywood a run for its considerable money. “Stranger Things” and “Ozark” chilled us; “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” showed us women are funny and introduced us to a 50’s era workout class none of us wants to join; “Legion” and about half a dozen other Marvel properties thrilled and delighted us with action and snappy comebacks. “The Good Place” gave us a whole new lexicon of “non-expletive expletives,” as well as the most apt metaphor for the year in total. We lost Logan and met our Wonder Woman. On “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” a show about unreturned and unrealistic love got real, tackling generalizations about men right before harassment in Hollywood was exposed, and being jubilant about receiving a mental health diagnosis through song and dance numbers. “The Handmaid’s Tale” presented an eerie gloss to our already high awareness around women’s health, value and stories. We got another Star Wars, which met with some mixed reviews, but for so many of us a thrilling milestone experience – peppered with heretofore unseen diversity, challenging us to understand that not all plot points have satisfying resolutions, and that the old ways – and those who champion them – must at some point make way for new perspectives and new heroes.
This isn’t everything. It can’t be everything. Because every day of this year has been its own news cycle, its own anxiety-provoking, heart palpitating cyclone of truth and obfuscation swirling together. Because tax plans and health plans are passing even though they’re not serving the most needy. Because gun reform is not happening in a way that will prevent future mass shootings. Because Puerto Ricans are still without power and thousands are still displaced in Houston. Because presidential tweets are most unpresidential, mocking those who could destroy us with the punch of a nuclear button. Because I wrote this without researching “top stories of 2017.” This is just what I’m remembering, as I’m writing.
The end of 2016 saw the loss of Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher, so I’m also closing 2017 remembering and missing her. Even before she died, I was referring to her as Matronus – named after the Harry Potter protective spell called the Patronus – she’s like a spiritual mother to the sass-inclined, the patron saint of truth, honesty and sarcasm, and I find her endlessly inspiring. In a year that has been marked by so much pain, uncertainty, anxiety and division, I look to wisdom and humor to save us – she had both in spades. I’m remembering the story that came out this year about how she acted to protect a friend who had been sexually propositioned, and wondering what she would have done and said this year to challenge the patriarchy and expose the industry’s underbelly the way the industry had exposed her in that metal bikini thirty years ago. I can only imagine it would have been honest, snappy and epic. Witness this Instagram post from Mark Hamill. And may the Force be with us all in 2018 and always.
What will you remember from 2017?