There are many things to be grateful for on the first day of 2016.
First and foremost, that 2015 is finally over. While the past 365 days have had many good things happen, there are plenty of days we wish would just fade from our memories. With the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and the rise of Daesh (we understand the blood-thirsty fanatics who call themselves ISIS really hate to be called Daesh, so we're going to stick with that throughout the New Year), including the massacres in Paris and the San Bernardino, we think 2015 should be full-up with atrocity. But apparently that wasn't enough — especially with a world that needs its daily fix of abomination via the 24/7 news cycle.
There was little Aylan, the 3-year-old Syrian body whose lifeless body washed ashore in Turkey after his family attempted to flee his war-ravaged country. That image alone became the clarion call for refugee relief around the world, except in the United States, where Donald Trump and his acolytes are pounding their chests and shouting "USA" while living in fear of "the other."
We've also heard from the other performance artists occupying the clown car that is the GOP's slate of candidates for president. All of them, except Rand Paul (bless his soul), are calling for the destruction of Daesh with whatever it takes, bombs, nuclear weapons and everyone else's children. While their beating of the war drums is deafening and is red meat for American jingoists (and the military/industrial complex which is still fat and happy from its bloody binge in Iraq and Afghanistan), they are calling us to send our sons and daughters to fight and perhaps die for some vision of American exceptionalism that only exists in the minds of the history-challenged, the semi-educated and those with flags attached to their monster trucks. Fortunately, most Americans have had enough of endless war in which our proud men and women have returned scarred in body, soul and mind ... or in coffins draped with Old Glory. We can only hope 2016 will be the year when we say enough is enough and we elect a president and Congresspeople who agree. We can only hope this is the year when we say it's time to stop spending billions of dollars on a weapons delivery system (AKA, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter) that can't fly in bad weather and start spending it on our returning veterans.
This past year we also had to bear up under the sound and fury of the gun control debate. From the right, we hear their acclamations that the Second Amendment is inviolable (just don't remind them that when the Bill of Rights was written it took about a minute to load and fire a long arm) and from the left we hear them questioning why anyone needs a firearm at all in this day and age (guess they never had a weasel in their chicken coop). This abysmal debate (in that there is a chasm between the two sides and anyone who dares stand in the middle gets figuratively shot down) is a disservice to the families who must learn how to carry on following the death of a loved one killed by a bullet. Whether that loved one dies by their own hand, is murdered by a criminal, a lunatic, a terrorist, an aggrieved male or a family member, or is shot by accident after someone just said "It's not loaded," shouldn't matter. What should matter in 2016 is we recognize there needs to be standardized gun regulations across the United States rather than a hodgepodge of laws depending on where you live. We need a waiting period to purchase a firearm and absolutely no one should be able to buy one without going through a background check. Anyone who wants to own a gun needs a license and proof they have been trained in its proper use, maintenance and storage. They also need to submit proof they have insurance related to firearms. We don't think those requirements are too much or too little to ask, but we know the hate mail is being stamped as this goes to the presses.
In 2016 we can also hope that this is the year we take seriously the threat of global climate change and humanity's destruction of the very habitat that is necessary for its survival. As Hillary Clinton recently said in response to the skeptics, if you aren't a scientist, "Go talk to one," and see what they have to say.
Let's also get behind Sen. Bernie Sanders' push to repeal Citizens United and take power away from the oligarchs and return it to "We, the people." If you are comfortable with the likes of the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Foster Friess, Paul Singer, Robert Mercer, Woody Johnson, Norman Braman, Ken Langone, Joe Ricketts and Peter Thiel (all white men, hmmmmm) deciding the course of this country, then carry on, oh, oblivious one. If you are not comfortable with their fingers on the scales, fight to overturn Citizens United in 2016.
And need we even start ranting about the horrors of mass incarceration, growing up black and therefore guilty in America and the insane war on drugs? We didn't think so.
We don't mean to linger on the awfulness of 2015; overall, it wasn't a totally bad year. But that doesn't mean we can't expect better from our politicians, our policy makers and ourselves.