It’s getting to be a ‘thing’, that 2016 has been a pretty awful year.
That story started with the death of David Bowie last January, deaths continuing through the year, combined on the political side by the June Brexit vote and November’s surprise victory of a spectacularly unsuitable and risky choice for US President.
So why am I am reluctant to write off the year just past?
Personally, for me the year has been pretty positive. The first full year of ‘retirement’ included consulting with some clients I genuinely like, making some progress on a third language, plus travelling to places like Iceland, Bermuda and Romania. And the cottage. The family was healthy and happy.
But the political problems? I cannot say good riddance to 2016 because the problems are still building. Still storm clouds. It hasn’t even started to rain yet. I can’t imagine exactly how the Trump years will turn out, because there has been no coherent plan. What I can be sure of is that the next few years will be turbulent. And given the polarization in the US, there will be many different people blamed and lessons learned.
I also see signs of tone-deaf style of American politics creeping north. Our federal Conservatives might next year also see a leadership candidate made famous by reality TV. Ontario’s politics seems even more polarized. The political environment will get worse before it gets better, and it may not be long until we look back fondly on 2016.
My decreasing tolerance for politics on our continent must be one of the reasons driving me to fascination with Romania, the land of my mother’s family. I’m checking the Bucharest news in the morning before the Globe and Mail. The need in Romania seems greater, the solutions more obvious.
The grimy photo above? It’s one of the border crossings into Romania, from Hungary. Not a pretty picture. The massive queue of trailer transport trucks, waiting there for days to get into the Shengen zone of border-free Europe, represents the most tangible symbol for Romania of the eventual benefits of integration with the continent.
I can only hope that the EU lasts long enough for Romania to make it into the border-free area. That Romanians find a way to maintain their rapid growth, to improve their social services, to bring their incomes closer to the European average.
Over there, I see a fair bit to hope for in 2017 — and I will continue to look for ways to contribute. But as for those of us closer to the American orbit, I see in the New Year fewer grounds for optimism.