Just A Little Bit Longer

Just A Little Bit Longer

Ten, nine…

There’s something very finite about New Year’s Eve and the way it rolls around each year.

The countdown begins, the balls drops, a cliché kiss is captured on TV, and we start over.

There’s also something very final about this holiday. It’s as if when the New Year rolls around, the one we’re leaving seems to disappear. It seems to become a distant memory, a book we close, and a hardship we are glad to leave behind.

But this year I feel especially strange about this.

It feels strange to me because so many bad things have happened this year and so much pain has been felt by so many. It feels odd to me to be eager to forget 2016, because what happens when in our eagerness we forget about the mistakes that we’ve made? What happens when we begin to write a 7 instead of a 6 and in doing so we erase the lessons that we’ve learned?

Writing that 7 can’t undo any of the horrific events that have happened this past year, but sometimes a new year can overshadow the old one.

And this time, I don’t think we can allow that to happen.

Eight, seven…

There were many failures this year, so many failures of humanity and human decency.

On June 2nd, Brock Turner, a Stanford swimmer, was sentenced to a mere six months in prison and three years probation for raping an unconscious woman.

Maybe it’s that I’m a woman in college, but the dismissal of sexual assault had never felt more real until this case. Never had I truly understood how people could view the assault, the nonconsensual penetration of another human being, as something that doesn’t even warrant a year in jail.

It wasn’t even a question of belief this time. He was found guilty. Yet, his guilt still wasn’t enough to force the realization that rape is horrible and deserves a punishment that reflects the crime.

Six, five…

On June 12th, 49 innocent people were killed inside Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL. 49 lives taken in an anti-LGBT hate crime, many of whom were a part of the Latinx community.

Sometimes, for a second or two, I forget how much I hate when people bring up how far we’ve come, because despite knowing how much suffering people still face, how much discrimination and hatred still pervades our society, sometimes it’s very easy to forget. It’s especially easy to forget when certain kinds of hate don’t affect you.

This shooting didn’t touch me. I didn’t wake up afraid for my safety because of my sexuality. I didn’t become more aware of the ways that people just seem to hate for no real reason. I was untouched. 

And as someone without a marginalized sexual identity, it would be very easy to roll into 2017 and have this tragedy be just a memory, a distant event.

But this massacre was, above all else, a horrific reminder of the hate and intolerance still directed towards members of the LGBTQIA+ community. It is a reminder of how much more we have to do as people to push for love and acceptance.

It’s a reminder of how far we have not, in fact, come.

Four, three…

On July 5th, Alton Sterling, a black man, was killed by the police in Baton Rouge, LA. On July 6th, Philando Castile, also a black man, was shot and killed by a police officer in St. Anthony, Minnesota.

On July 7th, amidst peaceful protest for these two deaths in Dallas, TX, five police officers were shot and killed.

This year, not unlike years before it, we have seen innocent lives taken. We have seen police brutality and injustice. Yet, we have also seen innocent police lives taken.

We have seen the ultimate misunderstanding. We have seen arguments of blue lives over black lives, of black over blue. Yet, we haven’t seen the true understanding that “Black Lives Matter” does not combat the importance of any other life. We have yet to see the true acknowledgment that something is still unequal.

We have yet to overcome the biases and people continue to die because of it.

Two…

On November 8th, Donald Trump, a hateful and bigoted man, was elected the next President of the United States.

Our year has been filled with the malicious words that he has said about nearly every marginalized group of people. It is in every comment that he has made it okay to distrust Muslims, to think of Latinx people as if they don’t belong in the United States, to think of Black people as if they are dangerous, to think of anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+ as wrong and insignificant, and to think of women as nothing more than housewives and sexual objects.

This year we experienced the ultimate failure—we legitimized a man who will strip people of their humanity, who incites hate and violence, and who instills fear in those who should be made to feel safe.

One.

This year was not a great year, and, despite the New Year, not everyone gets to just start over. In fact, I think that the woman who was raped by Brock Turner, the survivors of Pulse Nightclub, the friends and families of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the five officers, and every person who has been touched by Donald Trump’s hate would probably agree.

The New Year can’t take away their pain or the injustices that have occurred, but it does have the power to make us forget when we should remember. And we have to remember.

We have to remember because we have to stop the repetition of these events. We have to make sure that the pain and suffering that people have experienced was not meaningless. We can’t spend our time making New Year’s Resolutions and popping champagne when we should be mourning the losses and learning from the catastrophes.

People say “new year, new me,” but maybe we should stick with the old this time around. The one who was present during all of the hardest parts of 2016. The parts that made us cry and ache.

Why be a new person in a new year when we can be the people who survived 2016? When we can be the people who lived, who learned, and who changed?

As individuals, as communities, as a society we can use our 2016 selves to prevent another 2016.

We have been angry. We have been hurt. But that pain does nothing when we choose to move past it and let it go.  We have to harness the anger, the pain, and the person who experienced all these bad things because it is this person, and this person alone, who understands why we can’t let it happen again.

There is power in remembering.

We can’t work within our communities, combat hatred, or engage in political activism without remembering, so we must remember. We must remember the bad things, which at the height of each event felt so ugly, so that one day people don’t have to feel the way we did.

Let’s be 2016 just a little bit longer. Let’s learn from it, dwell on it, keep it, so that oneday these won’t just be horrible events. Let’s change something, so that one day our New Year’s celebrations can reflect the good in the world and the changes that we have made.

Let’s stay with 2016 just a little bit longer. Because there is still so much work to be done.

by Kristina Smith

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