It’s almost over: 2017, the year that began with protest marches, witnessed wildfires and racist rallies, and a sexual harassment pandemic, is nearing the end. Break out the champagne.
Let’s examine it in the teutonic spirit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who, after she hosted the disastrous G20 summit over the summer (complete with anarchist riots and major splits with longtime ally the United States), described it thusly: “The summit took place.”
Indeed it did. And so did 2017.
LIFE AND DEATHS
At the tail end of 2016, a miserable year for losing famous folks was capped by the one-two punch of the deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds. Surely 2017 would have to be better, right?
No. It was worse. Chuck Berry, Jimmy Breslin, David Cassidy, Dick Gregory, Hugh Hefner, Nat Hentoff, Helmut Kohl, Mary Tyler Moore, Jack O’Neill, Della Reese, Don Rickles, David Rockefeller, Adam West, Jim Nabors. And more.
Locally, we were touched by the deaths of more than 40 people in the terrible wildfires in Wine Country, which also destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.
The death of a counter-protester at a major rally by racists in Charlottesville, Virginia, shocked the nation. Luckily, there were no major issues after two planned far-right rallies in the Bay Area fizzled, including one scheduled for Crissy Field.
In these dangerous times, the president took to his bully pulpit to try to bring together Americans:
Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied…truly bad people!
The San Francisco 49ers didn’t make a lot of news — or touchdowns — this year, but they did help spark a national conversation about the national anthem. That’s disappointing, because the practice of kneeling during the anthem was supposed to spark a national conversation about racial injustices.
When the practice started by Colin Kaepernick spread across the league, the president weighed in on Twitter:
If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect….
…our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!
Dianne Feinstein was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, the so-called Year of the Woman that saw the election of a number of women to Congress, at least in part fueled by outrage over the Senate Judiciary Committee’s treatment of Anita Hill and her allegations of sexual harassment by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Feinstein is running for reelection, and this time she is being challenged by state Senator Kevin de León. Sexual harassment will play a role in this election, too; de León is facing scrutiny over his role in handling (or mishandling) sexual harassment allegations involving state senators.
A wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations flooded the news this year, beginning with the take-down of Hollywood super-producer Harvey Weinstein over decades of bad behavior and payoffs. The list of powerful men named by male or female accusers now includes Kevin Spacey, political journalist Mark Halperin, Amazon Studios head Roy Price, Pixar’s John Lasseter, Senator Al Franken, former President George H.W. Bush, state Senator Tony Mendoza (a roommate of Kevin de León), TV morning show hosts Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, and humorist Garrison Keillor.
The most jaw-dropping allegations were those that ensnared Roy Moore, an Alabama judge twice removed from office for violating the rules who yet became the odds-on favorite to win a U.S. Senate seat. He saw his campaign rocked by a number of allegations that he had dated teenagers when he was in his 30s, including at least one woman who said Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14. A local mall reportedly warned its security staff to keep a watch out for him to prevent him from harassing teenage girls.
Will 2018 be the year that things change for the better? It would be nice to think so, but before changes can be made, it is more likely we will continue to see a lot more big names taken down by allegations, as the #MeToo backlash against the harassers and assaulters has decades of anger to fuel it.
This was also the year in which President Donald Trump — himself the focus of numerous allegations of sexual harassment — responded to political criticism of him from an MSNBC show by attacking the female co-host, Mika Brzezinski, in these two June tweets:
I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..
…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!
This year, there were several jobs you didn’t want to have: Donald Trump’s spokesperson, mall cop at Roy Moore’s favorite shopping center, and an employee at any of the dozens of stores being closed by J. Crew, the 358 stores being closed by Sears and Kmart, the 138 stores JCPenney is closing, the 68 stores Macy’s is closing, or the many hundreds of stores closed by Gymboree, Michael Kors, RadioShack (yes, it still exists), Abercrombie & Fitch, Guess, The Limited, Staples, Family Christian, and on and on. Retail stores large and small took it on the chin this year.
The rest of the economy, however, showed continued strength and growth, despite costly disruptions from major hurricanes and wildfires.
To put it all into perspective, the president tweeted in July:
Highest Stock Market EVER, best economic numbers in years, unemployment lowest in 17 years, wages raising[sic], border secure, S.C.: No WH chaos!
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
This year might be the year that artificial intelligence broke through, which is good because we don’t seem to be making much use of our natural intelligence. But scientists shared a number of important developments, ranging from skin repair for burn victims to gene editing to the discovery of a nearby planet that could support life.
Perhaps the most earth-shaking development from the worlds of science and technology was Twitter’s decision to double the length of tweets. That should please the president, who considers himself something of a Twitter genius.
My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!
We’ll end with one more tweet from Donald Trump, who — I’m not making this up — is the president of the United States:
Despite the constant negative press covfefe