By Talia Soglin
2015 was a year of tragedy, uncertainty, and fear — this is true. Sandwiched on both ends of the calendar by terror attacks in Paris, the city of lights, it is easy to paint this past year as a year of darkness.The terror group ISIS continued to gain power throughout the Middle East, taking the lives of many and the livelihoods of many more.
The humanitarian crisis created by the Syrian Civil War reached new heights as refugees risked their lives by embarking on difficult and dangerous journeys for the shot at better, safer lives. The image of the toddler Aylan Kurdi drowned on a beach in Turkey precipitated an international outrage, but not, in the United States, a resolve to accept large numbers of refugees.
Vitriolic Islamophobia became ever-present in this country, especially evident when 31 U.S. governors announced, in constitutionally questionable decrees, that they would not accept Syrian refugees. Donald Trump’s proposal to stay all Muslim immigration to the U.S. was received with shocking popular support.
The race conversation stayed at the forefront of news, media, and culture. Students at Mizzou and Yale protested and the Black Lives Matter movement marched on, fueled by the continuing injustice of police brutality and social and political inequality.
The American political arena seemed to abandon all previously accepted rules. Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, gained traction in early primary states. Donald Trump uncovered an ugly, hidden side of American xenophobia and prejudice when he discovered he could defend vicious, racist statements by declaring he was at war with political correctness, and not with the very ideals of toleration and equal opportunity that this country stands for.
In 2015, there were more mass shootings than days. We were shocked but not surprised by news coming out of Charleston, San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Roseburg, Chattanooga, and more. In the early days of 2016, President Obama offered a faint ray of hope when he took executive action on guns.
But this year also saw some great showings of humanity. The Supreme Court of the United States of America legalized same sex marriage in all 50 states. As the U.S. raised flags above its embassy in Havana for the first time in 54 years, the Confederate flag came down from state courthouses. Videos surfaced of German citizens welcoming Syrian refugees, singing “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.” And in Paris, climate talks resulted in a historic agreement on the reduction of carbon emissions just months after terror struck.
The impact of technology on our lives has never been clearer. In June, a man in London started a failed Indiegogo campaign to crowdfund a Greek bailout. In November, Parisians live tweeted the horrific events unfolding within the Bataclan theater, and hours later started #PorteOuverte, opening their homes to strangers in distress.
In 2015, NASA confirmed that liquid water flows on Mars, and released the first color photos of Pluto. Early clinical trials of an Ebola vaccine proved promising.
In the year that comes, we will be faced with the same problems we faced in 2015. There will be more mass shootings in the United States of America. The refugee crisis will persist unless governments the world over agree to come together and help. The presidential election in this country will direct the course of history for not just the next four years, but for the foreseeable future. Stakes are high, but no higher than they’ve always been.