Everyone is ready to be rid of 2016. Scores of people are posting to social media, personifying the year as a dreaded tormentor:
#2016, you’re the worst.
I hate you #2016
#2016, don’t you dare (beside a photo of Carrie Fischer)
2016 did take Carrie Fisher. It took George Michael, Leonard Cohen, Prince, David Bowie, Gene Wilder and Florence Henderson – Patty Duke, Garry Shandling and Merle Haggard.
It took civil rights fighter Georgia Davis Powers, and it took Fred Hayman, the godfather of Rodeo Drive.
It took John Glenn, Nancy Reagan, Edward Albee, Harper Lee, and Morley Safer.
It took the greatest – Muhammad Ali
It took El Commandante, Fidel Castro.
It took Tupac’s father, Afeni Shaukur. It took my co-worker’s father and my home-town neighbor’s mother.
It took the twin sister of Iran’s deposed Shah and Thomas E. Schaefer, retired Air Force Colonel who was one of the 52 American hostages held in Iran in 1980-1981.
It took progressive California Senator Tom Hayden and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who the Republi-Tea party refused to replace during the Obama administration.
It took Margaret Vinci Heldt, who created the bee-hive hairdo.
It took Sam Iacobellis, the Rockwell CEO who handed up 100 B-1 bombers to Ronald Reagan in six years and Phyllis Schafley, who led the charge to defeat the ERA in the 1970’s.
It took James Delligatti who invented the “Big Mac” and Henry Heimlich, who created the lifesaving maneuver of his namesake.
It took 1058 people who were killed by US police according to The Guardian’s “The Counted” project. 148 of them were unarmed.
It took 74-year-old Francisco Serna, the most recent death reported on The Buardian’s website. Francisco had dementia. He often took walks in his Sacramento neighborhood to help himself sleep. He was carrying a crucifix that was mistaken for a gun.
It took the lives of 5,000 refugees in the Mediterranean Sea (UNHCR.org).
2016 took the safe homes of a record 5.8 million people according to the International Business Times. This brings the total number of forcibly displaced people in the world to 65.3 million (UNHCR.org).
2016 took “more than enough to provide an education for all of the 124 million children currently out of school, and to pay for health interventions that could save the lives of six million children” (Oxfam Policy Paper, 12.12.2016). This due to their research which shows developing countries’ loss of around $100 billion due to tax avoidance schemes that benefit 65 people.
Right here in The City of Los Angeles, over 28,464 people are homeless on any given night (2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count). This is up by 11% from the 2015 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. Youth homelessness accounts for 52% of that increase.
These researchers cited LA’s affordable housing crisis, its’ high unemployment rate and its’ prevalence of low wage jobs as culprits.
The good news is that homelessness among veterans fell by 41% in the City.
2016 brought another report – this one from the LA County Economic Development Corporation. The report projects that a whopping 63% of all jobs expected over the next five years in LA County will require a high school education or less and will not afford the ability to pay the high cost of living as housing prices continue to outpace income.
I could go further and deeper into the horrors of 2016. Did the year bring any bright spots?
My personal bright spots were all about family, friends and the beauty of nature. My parents and I were able to travel to Oregon where my father worked as a boy, picking produce in the Hood River Valley. We saw the orchards where he and his brother worked. We visited the now defunct saw mill where they also labored to gain some money for the family back in New Mexico.
Thanks to social media, we witnessed the heroic stand of the people of Standing Rock and their allies who remain to this day in the bitter killing cold. No longer a sensation, but still fighting perhaps the hardest battle yet to come as they face blizzards and continued arrests and harassment.
The opening of friendlier relations with Cuba allows Americans access to the lung cancer vaccine developed and available for free in the island nation since 2011.
The end of the year saw the discovery of an ebola vaccine.
After being liberated from jihadists, the people of Aleppo were able to celebrate for the first time in five years.
PBS reported that the world’s tiger count rose for the first time in 100 years.
In Los Angeles, the FightFor$15 campaign won a path to victory in 2016 – and paid sick days for all workers.
UniteHere! And the Teamsters brought union protection and wages to drivers and cafeteria workers across the Silcone Valley.
Pope Frances was out there making friends across the globe and making me want to become a Catholic.
Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on some money – best exchange I’ve heard of in years.
Dave Chappelle came back to television.
By the looks of it, 2017 will be a real whopper. The incoming administration promises to undo all of the layers of gains that workers fought and died for from the 1800’s to the time of the New Deal.
Still, the past year has also shown that in the face of heartbreaking loss, there are those who will risk it all to open the portal to moments of joy, unity, justice and peace. As the vise on the lives of regular people becomes tighter, more and more of us may find ourselves in their ranks.
On the death of George Michael and the end of the year, I am struck by the lyrics of one of his songs:
Do you think we have time?
Do you think we have time?
These are the days of the open hand
They will not be the last
Look around now
These are the days of the beggars and the choosers
This is the year of the hungry man
Whose place is in the past
Hand in hand with ignorance
And legitimate excuses
Let’s hope 2017 will be a year of movement towards a future where the hungry man, ignorance and legitimate excuses are in their place in the past. Better yet, let’s fight for it.
NEED TO KNOW:
Help the Water Protectors of all our water in their Titanic struggle to stop the DAPL:
Watch the award-winning must-see doc, “13th.” It documents the history of slavery to mass incarceration as well as putting police brutality in context.
Be part of the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count
Join the Fight for $15 LA
(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at www.RecessionCafe.wordpress.com is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at [email protected]. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jennifercald - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website: jenniferhcaldwell.com)