EDITORIAL: When bashing 2016, some perspective needed

York Dispatch
  • The year 2016 was blasted by many as a terrible year.
  • Many celebrities died, the nation was divided, there were natural disasters and there were wars.
  • Some other years, such as 1348, 1862, 1932 and 1943, however, were much worse.

By its very nature, a year can't be benevolent or malevolent.

A year is a simple measurement of time. It has no intrinsic positive or negative qualities.

The election of Donald Trump capped a bitter presidential campaign in 2016.

You would never know that, however, if you've done any newspaper reading, web browsing or channel surfing lately. Everywhere you looked, you were inundated by an outbreak of stories and columns bidding good riddance to a much-maligned 2016.

People are acting as if the year itself was downright dreadful.

Well, first of all, 2016 wasn't anything but a collection of 366 days (leap year).

Secondly, the events that occurred during those days weren't all that different than in many other years.

Yes, lots of famous people died. That's unfortunate, but it happens every single year. It's part of the circle of life.

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Yes, there was an ugly presidential campaign that was capped by the surprise election Donald Trump, who just happens to be one of the most polarizing figures ever voted into the Oval Office. His election clearly revealed a bitter partisan and racial divide in this nation. But let's get real here, folks. The partisan and racial divide is nothing new. It's been here since the nation was founded.

Yes, there were natural disasters, but were they really any more numerous or disastrous than during most other years?

And yes, there were wars that scarred far too much of our planet and left thousands dead, wounded or homeless. Wars, however, have also been a tragic part of the human condition since the dawn of civilization.

Some perspective: Let's get a little perspective here, folks.

You want some years when really bad things happened?

How about 1348, when the Black Death took a fatal hold in Europe. It would eventually wipe out about a third of the European population.

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How about 1862, when Amerca was in the midst of a bloody Civil War that would eventually kill more than 620,000 people. To make matters more dismal, in 1862 the South looked like it had a real chance to win the war and continue the scourge of slavery.

How about 1932, which was probably the darkest year during the Great Depression. The gross domestic product fell a record 13.4 percent and the unemployment rate rose to 23.6 percent. Those are truly frightening numbers.

And how about 1943, when Nazi Germany controlled most of Europe and the Holocaust was on its way to wiping out 6 million Jews?  Even worse, an Allied victory over the Germans in World War II was far from guaranteed.

Those were years when folks really had a right to complain. And there were many other similarly terrible years during human history.

Things aren't so bad: The point here is this — historically speaking, things right now aren't all that awful.

Unemployment is under 5 percent. Inflation is negligible. The economy has shown solid growth. Most people are doing OK.

There are, of course, wars going on, but none compare to World War II.

The nation is divided, but it's nothing compared to the chasm that separated us during the Civil War.

There is no doubt that many bad things happened in 2016, but there was also much good news that shouldn't be overlooked.

People need to remember that when lambasting an entire year. After all, it's just a calendar filled with 52 weeks.

It's what each of us makes of those weeks that really matters. It's up to each of us to join forces and help improve things, both for ourselves and our neighbors.

As 2017 dawns, we would do well to remember that.