2016 was the year that decency died in the United States. Sure, every year has its share of disasters, deaths, violence and tragedies but 2016 stood out for how poorly we as a people acted. Instead of compassion or empathy, we were faced with the sheer callousness of a frighteningly large segment of the American public. Even worse, we’re getting used to just how cold and cruel millions of our fellow travelers can be. Behavior that would have left the country reeling just a few decades ago got a cluck of the tongue and a change of the channel.
Listing every horrible thing we did as a country would require the digital equivalent of the yellow pages so I stuck with just some of the more egregious low-lights of the year.
2016 is the year we…
…watched a wealthy white kid get a gentle caress on the wrist for raping an unconscious woman – A star athlete raping a woman is nothing new but the way the media bent over backwards to make Brock Turner sympathetic while a judge gave him a lighter sentence than the average shoplifter was nauseating. The judge’s reasoning? Too much prison would have a “severe impact” on his privileged life. On top of that, Turner’s father complained that any jail time at all was “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.” In the end, Turner spent just 3 months in jail, a slap in the face to his victim.
…watched the judge that gave Brock Turner a gentle caress receive his own gentle caress – Despite the obvious bias of Judge Aaron Persky in giving fellow Stanford athlete Turner an insultingly light sentence, he was found innocent of any misconduct. Women everywhere received the message loud and clear about their worth in the eyes of America’s judiciary.
…watched a jury give the police carte blanche to murder unarmed black men at will – In 1991 the country was shocked to watch several officers beat an unarmed Rodney King to a pulp. 25 years and the death of decency later, we were not particularly shocked to see a cop repeatedly shoot a black man in the back from 20 feet away, casually plant a weapon near the dying man and then lie about it. We were even less shocked to find out that a jury, seeing the obvious murder and cover up, couldn’t see their way fit to convict the officer of a crime.
…watched the police not be held accountable for killing a shackled prisoner – Freddie Gray was “accidentally” killed in police custody and, magically, no one was responsible. Just another dead black guy. Damn shame. Now move along.
…watched a cop kill a black man for legally owning a gun – Philando Castile told a police officer that he had a permit to carry a gun and that he was going to show the officer his license. He was immediately killed for his trouble. Curiously, the NRA, ever the staunch defender of gun ownership, was very reluctant to stand up for Castile. Almost like guns are only for white people in America.
It’s unlikely Castile’s killer will be punished, thus giving the police even more leeway to unjustly kill black men.
…watched Republicans throw the city of Flint under the bus – the Republican-controlled government of Michigan deliberately poisoned an entire city, lied about it and is now fighting tooth and nail to avoid taking responsibility for it. You’d think that they would, at the very least, make sure the people of Flint got clean water to drink while the problem was (slowly) dealt with. But this was 2016 so decency was in short supply.
…watched political violence become acceptable – A white man ran up to a black protester being led out of a Trump rally by the police and sucker-punched him. And the police did nothing. Later, the same man went on camera and said he might have to kill the protester next time. He was hailed as a hero by Trumpsters.
After the police were shamed into finally arresting the man because it was all on camera, 79-Year-Old John McGraw was given a 30-day suspended sentence, 1 year probation and $430 in fines.
This was far from the only violence to occur at a Trump rally.
…watched unarmed left wing insurrection be violently suppressed – American law enforcement blasted peaceful protesters at Standing Rock, North Dakota with water cannons in freezing weather, putting their lives at risk for corporate greed.
At the same time, we…
…watched armed right wing insurrection be legally condoned – a group of heavily armed morons seized a government building, threatened to murder anyone that tried to make them leave and walked away with a mandate to do it again.
…watched a mass murder be used to attack the LGBT victims, Muslims, immigrants and gun safety – The Pulse massacre left 49 mostly LGBT Americans dead (plus the shooter but fuck him) and while many mourned, far too many couldn’t contain their glee at all the dead gay people. And others couldn’t even bring themselves to acknowledge it as a hate crime, preferring to demonize Muslims and immigrants instead.
Also, the “Christian” right disgustingly insisted more guns was the solution.
…watched a corporation hold the public hostage for a profit – The makers of the lifesaving Epipen were (and still are) completely unapologetic about boosting the price from $100 to $600 for the sole purpose of making a larger profit. The public got mad for a little bit and then shrugged and went about their business.
But it got worse if you can believe it. In 2016 we…
…watched North Carolina Republicans go insane – They passed the most discriminatory anti-LGBT law in the nation. Sure, they payed a heavy price for it but apparently they felt it was worth it to enable unadulterated bigotry.
And after their bigotry cost them so much, the NC GOP went even more insane as we…
…watched a political party literally try to steal a state – Between some of the most extreme gerrymandering in the country and voter suppression that would make a third world dictator blush, North Carolina is no longer considered a democracy. And just to put the icing on the cake, after losing the governorship and the Supreme Court, Republicans are in the middle of pushing through laws to give themselves more power after the voters took it away.
But what made it so noteworthy is how the “liberal” media just shrugged and yawned at this vomitous assault on decency and democracy.
And 2016 really was a banner year for the journalistic malpractice that helped end decency as we know it in America. In 2016 we…
…watched our media shrug and yawn as the GOP stole a Supreme Court seat from the sitting Democratic president.
…watched our media tear apart a woman that has spent her life helping others and serving her country.
…watched our media endlessly hype stolen documents even after finding out that the “leaks” were being coordinated by a hostile foreign power.
…watched our media savagely attack a charitable foundation that has saved millions of lives because of “apparent” conflicts of interest the media itself created from whole cloth.
But lest they be labeled “biased”, the media made sure to treat Donald Trump with kid’s gloves. In 2016, we…
…watched our media swoon over the ad revenue Donald Trump was generating.
…watched our media shrug and yawn that Donald Trump refused to release his tax returns.
…watched our media shrug and yawn over Donald Trump’s blindingly obvious corruption after pillorying Hillary over nonexistent corruption.
…watched our media shrug and yawn over Russia throwing the election to Donald Trump.
…watched our media shrug and yawn as Republicans, traditionally the most vocal opponents of Russia, suddenly embrace a hostile nation as a bosom buddy because of Russia’s open support of Donald Trump.
Speaking of Trump, 2016 was the year we…
…watched a presidential candidate mock the handicapped.
…watched a presidential candidate be a sexist pig.
…watched a presidential candidate openly appeal to white supremacy.
2017 will almost certainly be as bad if not worse. Even if our governmental institutions resist Trump’s efforts to fatally corrupt them, they will be weakened to the point of ineffectiveness. Republicans will assist in this endeavor because like the criminal praying for budget cuts to the police, the less oversight there is, the more they can get away with.
We’re already seeing a rise in terrorism carried out by white nationalists acting under the assumption the Trump administration will turn a blind eye to them. Expect a continuing escalation of right wing violence against Those People. Every fascist dictator needs collaborators.
This doesn’t mean we roll over and surrender but it’s important to understand just how far off the path of human decency we’ve wandered. When you’re lost in the dark, you have to know where you are before you can find your back to the light. So get out your flashlights, take a deep breath and start walking.
– This article kills fascists
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I’m a stay at home dad, father to a special needs son and a special daughter, a donor baby daddy, a militantly pragmatic liberal, the president of the PTA, a hardcore geek and nerd and I’m going to change the world. Or at least my corner of it.