2017 was a threat to our existence.
It would be naïve to argue that this past year has been the worst in human history, or that life was perfect until 2017 came along. However, it was undeniable that this past year was especially cruel, filling its days with moments of fear and existential dread.
I watched as friends stayed up in the late hours of the night, fearing for their lives as members of Congress drafted numerous health care bills, knowing their access to health care would disappear if Republicans succeeded in their plans. Calling our representatives became routine as our government was set on harming its less wealthy citizens.
I was struck with immense fear as this country attempted to implement racist travel bans, worried for the lives of the people I know would be affected. Even though I was born in the United States, and my family emigrated from a country that wasn’t targeted in the travel ban, I still scrambled to make sure I had constant access to documents that proved my citizenship.
I felt a sense of hopelessness as our government encouraged the discrimination of transgender individuals in the workplace. This, along with the military ban on transgender individuals, made it clear that our current government is happy to throw all of my transgender friends under the bus, further endangering their already vulnerable lives.
The feeling of dread that arose from our government’s continued attempt to strip away the rights of the marginalized only amplified in light of this year’s gubernatorial election. In a race between a middle-of-the-road Democrat and a fear-mongering Republican, the threat of Virginia falling to bigotry loomed large. And while the Democrats won this election, I doubt this would be the last time marginalized Virginians will be forced to vote for their survival.
When the outing of sexual predators in the public sphere enabled many to come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, many people I had respected – be it a celebrity or someone I knew personally – turned out to be monsters. In those moments I felt nothing but an overwhelming sense of betrayal, and the bravery of those who chose to come forward with their stories cannot be overstated. Deep down, however, I knew that it shouldn’t take people recounting and reliving their deep traumas for the general public to start taking these stories seriously, leaving me to wonder when society will take a long, hard look at itself and the rape culture we perpetuate.
This year has been full of bleak moments, but perhaps the bleakest was the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and the suffering that occurred as a result. The moment I heard that a white supremacist brutally attacked counter-protestors, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others, my stomach filled itself with anxiety. I was working a summer job in my hometown at the time, but I couldn’t stop checking my phone, frantically making sure that everyone I knew who attended the rally was safe. In that moment, the threat of white supremacy became further solidified. Bigotry was no longer on the fringes of society for most white Americans; it was present, and it reared its ugly head in broad daylight, in a way that privileged Americans could no longer avoid.
However, it was at this moment that I also saw some positive aspects of this year shine through. Organizers were quick to create fundraising pages for those impacted by the attack, and those pages quickly met their goals. There was a sense of solidarity among those who recognized the evil that presented itself on that day, and that solidarity carried us forward. It is this solidarity that introduced me to plenty of people, organizers, and activists, all of whom were angry about the current state of the world, and worked enact positive change. I have met so many people who have treated me with relentless kindness, and that alone will me with hope.
It was this hope that helped transgender Democrat Danica Roem kick conservative bigot Bob Marshall out of power, and it was this hope that helped Democratic Socialists of America member Lee Carter land a seat in the House of Delegates.
Going into 2018, we must remember to be there for one another. Solidarity among other produces hope, and hope produces change. We can produce change on a large scale. A better world is possible. Let’s do our best to make it happen.