EDITORIAL: Turn page on 2017

York Dispatch

It has been 25 years since Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, looking back over the preceding 12 months, declared 1992 an annus horribilis — a horrible year.

As 2017 winds to a close, many Americans know how she felt.

The past 365 days have often been challenging — psychologically, emotionally, mentally and politically.

That’s not a partisan assessment. For every Democrat that seethed as Republicans rushed Donald Trump’s nominee onto the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy created with 11 months left in Barack Obama’s term, there was a Republican left to stew over the party’s missteps in repealing the Affordable Care Act.

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And there was seemingly no end to incidents that should have united the nation in grief, but instead divided it along political fault lines:

  • Horrendous mass shootings in a rural Texas church, outside a Las Vegas high-rise casino and elsewhere devolved predictably from shock to anguish to debates about gun control.
  • Violent white-supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, set the stage for ongoing arguments over public displays of Confederate symbols.
  • An unprecedented spree of monster hurricanes decimated the Southeastern United States and Puerto Rico before becoming the latest point of contention in the debate over global climate change.
  • The #metoo movement gave voice to women who have long endured sexual harassment and aggression, and brought overdue accountability to scores of high-profile transgressors. But united opposition to such behavior dissolved when it came to the Senate campaign of a twice-removed Alabama judge, Roy Moore, who was accused of multiple inappropriate incidents involving underage girls, including sexual assault.

Add to these the ongoing federal investigation into Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, nuclear saber-rattling between the United States and North Korea, the shooting of the House majority whip, terror attacks both at home and abroad, and the seemingly endless, indiscreet social media posts from tweeter-in-chief President Donald Trump and the annus has been, indeed, horribilis.

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But 2018 needn’t bring more of the same.

As we turn the page in 2017, perhaps we can likewise turn the page on a few counterproductive tendencies.

Blind partisanship, for example.

None other than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently voiced the desire for more bipartisanship in Congress in the coming year. A skeptic might respond, “sure, now that you’ve rammed through that tax cut,” or “that’s because you’ll only have a 51-49 majority.” But a realist — one with a touch of New Year’s optimism — will take him at his word.

Especially if he follows word with action.

Congress will need to revisit its spending gap post-haste upon its return in January. Democrats have been working to secure assurances that the bill will provide protections for so-called Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to the country as young children. Agreement on this issue would not only prove McConnell is in earnest, it could open the door to a better — and much-needed — bipartisan working relationship moving forward.

Not just lawmakers, but everyday news consumers would do well to follow suit. The echo chambers, whether they ring out left of center or right, aren’t doing either side much good. And screaming “fake news” about any story that does not align with preconceived beliefs might make the screamer feel better, but it does not change the facts. There’s plenty of room across the political spectrum for positions that are more logical than ideological.

There’s also plenty of room for continuing to support those who are speaking up in hopes of changing long-calcified attitudes toward women — in the workplace in particular, but also in society at large. Outing predators is a necessary first step, but it is a shameful necessity that shows just how much remains to be done in providing equal opportunity, recognition and compensation for women.

Finally, a little more self-policing in the social-media world would benefit not just individuals but society as a whole. Yes, it would help if we had a president who issued proclamations from a podium and took follow-up questions from the legitimate press, rather than taking to social media to weigh in on matters unworthy of the White House in language that is beneath the White House. But that’s not going to change.

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So, we should. Fewer knee-jerk posts. Less time diving deep into the silo. More effort to engage, consider and respect positions we disagree with.

Speaking out for positive change has never been more important. But in 2018, it should be done in a way that seeks to build unity rather than exploit division. There could be no better resolution for the coming year.