"What's past is prologue." ? William Shakespeare, The Tempest
What a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year this has been.
Endless wars. Toxic politics. Violence. Hunger. Police shootings. Mass shootings. Economic downturns. Political circuses. Senseless tragedies. Loss. Heartache. Intolerance. Prejudice. Hatred. Apathy. Meanness. Cruelty. Poverty. Inhumanity. Greed.
Here's just a small sampling of what we've suffered through in 2016.
After three years of increasingly toxic politics, the ruling oligarchy won and "we the people" lost. The FBI's investigation of Hillary's emails ended with a whimper, rather than a bang. FBI director James Comey declared Clinton's use of a private email server to be careless rather than criminal. Bernie Sanders sparked a movement only to turn into a cheerleader for Hillary Clinton. Clinton won the popular vote but lost the election. Donald Trump won the White House while the American people lost any hope of ending the corporate elite's grip on the government.
The government declared war on so-called "fake news" while continuing to peddle its own brand of propaganda. President Obama quietly re-upped the National Defense Authorization Act, including a provision that establishes a government agency to purportedly counter propaganda and disinformation.
More people died at the hands of the police. Shootings of unarmed citizens (especially African-Americans) by police claimed more lives than previously estimated, reinforcing concerns about police misconduct and the use of excessive force. Police in Baton Rouge shot Alton Sterling. Police in St. Paul shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop. Ohio police shot 13-year-old Tyre King after the boy pulls out a BB gun. Wisconsin was locked down after protests erupt over a police shooting of a fleeing man. Oklahoma police shot and killed Terence Crutcher during a traffic stop while the man's hands were raised in the air. North Carolina police killed Keith Lamont Scott, spurring two nights of violent protests. San Diego police killed Alfred Olango after he removed a vape smoking device from his pocket. Los Angeles police shot Carnell Snell Jr. after he fled a vehicle with a paper license plate.
We lost some bright stars this year. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia's death left the court deadlocked and his successor up for grabs. Joining the ranks of the notable deceased were Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Fidel Castro, Leonard Cohen, Carrie Fisher, John Glenn, Merle Haggard, Harper Lee, George Michael, Prince, Nancy Reagan, Janet Reno, Elie Wiesel, and Gene Wilder.
Diseases claimed more lives. The deadly Zika virus spread outwards from Latin America and into the U.S.
The rich got richer. The Panama Papers leak pulled back the curtain on schemes by the wealthy to hide their funds in shell companies.
Free speech was dealt one knock-out punch after another. First Amendment activities were pummeled, punched, kicked, choked, chained and generally gagged all across the country. The reasons for such censorship varied widely from political correctness, safety concerns and bullying to national security and hate crimes but the end result remained the same: the complete eradication of what Benjamin Franklin referred to as the "principal pillar of a free government."
The debate over equality took many forms. African-Americans boycotted the Oscars over the absence of nominations for people of color, while the Treasury Department announced its decision to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. North Carolina's debate over transgender bathrooms ignited a nationwide fury. Meanwhile, the U.S. military opened its doors to transgender individuals. A unanimous Supreme Court affirmed a Texas law that counts everyone, not just eligible voters, in determining legislative districts. The nation's highest court also upheld affirmative action, while declaring a Texas law on abortion clinics to be an unnecessary burden on women.
Environmental concerns were downplayed in favor of corporate interests. Flint, Michigan's contaminated water was declared a state and federal emergency, while thousands protested the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and its impact on water sources.
Technology rendered Americans vulnerable to threats from government spies, police, hackers and power failures. The Justice Department battled Apple in court over access to its customers' locked, encrypted iPhones. Microsoft sued the U.S. government over its access to customers' emails and files without their knowledge. Yahoo confirmed that over half a billion user accounts had been hacked. Police departments across the country continued to use Stingray devices to collect cellphone data in real time, often without a warrant. A six-hour system shutdown resulted in hundreds of Delta flights being cancelled and thousands of people stranded.
Police became even more militarized and weaponized. Despite concerns about the government's steady transformation of local police into a standing military army, local police agencies continued to acquire weaponry, training and equipment suited for the battlefield. In North Dakota, for instance, police were authorized to acquire and use armed drones. Likewise, the use of SWAT teams for routine policing tasks has increased the danger for police and citizens alike.