2016 Dies a Long, Agonizing Death, But No One Will Mourn Its Passing

in Entertainment & LifeStyle/The Nation

It is increasingly the one thing that everyone, regardless of race, gender, orientation, age, or religion can agree on: 2016 and its many unexpected surprises has led us all to conclude that this year is one we’re happy to have behind us as soon as possible. From Britain’s divorce from the European Union with Brexit to the elections of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte and American president Donald Trump, there are as many unhappy about the outcome as those who are pleased with the result, but both groups do acquiesce to the inarguable fact that choosing between bad and worse isn’t much to celebrate regardless of what side they gravitated towards. Most upsetting and the biggest uniting factor of 2016 is that we have lost many great individuals, resulting in an overwhelming loss that Trump and Clinton supporters can both agree are unpleasant. Most agonizing of all is that 2016 is a leap year, so we suffer for an extra day more this calendar year.

Zsa Zsa Gabor, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds, Muhammed Ali, Harper Lee, Umberto Eco, Frank Sinatra Jr., Nancy Reagan, Chyna, Elie Wiesel, Kenny Baker, Fidel Castro–whether you liked them or not, they were characters, individuals, and personalities whose names and footprint in existence are only felt stronger when we think of their passing. And they are only a few out of many, many notable names of those who are part of The 2016 Club, a group who, as the late and immortal Groucho Marx would say, is a club he wouldn’t want to belong to if it would have him as a member. The number of losses is so high that a quick Google search will list how many notable deaths we have had in 2016, especially in The New York Times.
Countless Internet memes go around expressing the utter disdain for 2016, to the point that even one very queer-friendly webcomic,Questionable Content, has a t-shirt design that simply says “2016 Sucked” and will likely still remain relevant for years due to the sheer number of unexpected and unpleasant occurrences we have endured. It will go down in (recent) history as significant years, such as 1984 thanks to Orwell, 1999 thanks to Prince, 2001 thanks to both George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden, 2012 thanks to the Mayans and their calendar, 2015 thanks to Obama and our LGBT community, and so on as years that will all trigger one distinct and common association or another.
One argument about the impact of these losses is that it’s a product of our times and the overload of information, ease of access and instant access to news that depresses us. To follow that argument however is to dismiss the curiosity of people when we got our information from the evening news and the newspapers, and to undermine the significance of the individuals who make up The 2016 Club. It is akin to saying that people always die each year, so therefore we shouldn’t be as affected because it’s common, but if you tell someone whose mother is dying that he shouldn’t be so sad since he already saw his father and grandparents pass before, he’ll more often than not think you’re a grade-a insensitive and calloused jerk, and he will be absolutely correct.
With the loss of an individual is the loss of an entire universe: an entire set of values, ideas, opinions, and presence disappears. To know how important someone is to not necessarily be overwhelmed by their presence, but to really feel the impact of their absence. Without George Michael or David Bowie, we do not have queer idols who weren’t afraid to be outrageous. Without Umberto Eco, Harper Lee, or Elie Wiesel, we lack literary voices and insights that have enriched our lives in their works and especially the former’s commentaries on life with technology, as found in the first essay in his book How to Travel with a Salmon. Without Muhammed Ali, we don’t have a fighter, a survivor, and a man with a conscience who lived by a principle that landed him in jail and cost him his fortune and fame during the prime of his athletic career, who proved that he was much, much more than dumb muscle and served to inspire us to be more too. Together, it’s not like losing a best friend or a mentor or an idol, but more like having a family taken away from you, and this is why 2016 will leave many of us with plenty to reflect on. We have effectively lost the living legacy of voices that shaped our development and dare we say even bid farewell to voices of multiple generations.
As we greet 2017, the next question that we ask is if we have more to look forward to than we do to look back at in anger and despair. Putting aside our political leanings and disappointments or celebrations, the answer is yes: life does and will go on, because not only can we the same way that we have done before with the loss of people like John Lennon or Hunter S. Thompson, but for the simple reason that we must. No individual who impacted the world as many of those we mourn over would want the world to stop for them, because they all had a desire in one form or another to keep the wheel turning to become the world they wished for rather than remaining the same kind of nonsense that inspired them to act, sing, write, and fight. If we spend too much of our emotional investment in nostalgia, all we will do is insult the world they helped shape now by missing the world that they were all criticizing or moving excitedly away from and closer to–wait for it–right now.
For those of us who miss the underground scene and niche, inner circle-like feeling of being part of something exclusive that no one else could know about or even get, remember that the LGBT community, while it may have been united in its fight for more, all would want the world right now where they don’t have to live with “Don’t ask, don’t tell” because of US Military policy, and would instead want a world more like 2015 and later for the freedom, right, and privilege to be openly gay and married instead of hiding a crucial part of themselves and their life. Yes, we will miss the past, but nothing new will ever come out of the past. Nostalgia can be a curse at times, because it makes us forget the other feeling many of us want: for the future to come now so that we can escape from–what else?–now.
We can listen to old songs and watch the movie classics or re-read what we loved, but towards what end will this take us if our enjoyment is conditional based on nostalgia and the heartbeats of the people associated with what we love? We won’t gain anything out of 2016 if we focus on 2017 and onwards, but rest assured: we will not lose anything else to 2016 aside from our time agonizing over how miserable it is and soon will be how miserable it was.

AuthorD. Ogenes

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