2016 has not been a good year on planet Earth.
A holocaust is taking place right now in Syria. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum sees it: "Despite promises of Never Again, a regime is targeting its own people while the international community stands by". Yes, we stand by, helpless, numb.
We find real horror today in Syria, and a sickening, maddening promise of future horror in Colombia, where something unthinkable happened this week. After the blessed news of a historic peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC to end fifty-two years of civil war, a popular vote designed to seal the deal with public approval failed, by a tiny percentage. Yes, that's how it happened: both sides of a civil war want to end the war, and the people voted to let the war continue. This is the nauseating result of a right-wing propaganda campaign aimed at the brave leadership of Juan Manuel Santos, and apparently motivated by petty political ambition rather than any tangible benefit for the people.
It's shocking when both sides of a civil war want to end the war and the voters don't let them. Imagine a barroom brawl where both people fighting agree to stop ... and the spectators in the bar don't let them. It's an absurd electoral result in an absurd year.
We've already talked a bit about two other absurd electoral results in this absurd year. The United Kingdom continues its descent into isolation following the Brexit vote. A decree that Firms Must List Foreign Workers upset a lot of people this week. They are right to be upset, to be chilled by memories of past deportations during past European wars.
In my own country, the United States of America, we are so gripped by the ridiculous spectacle of candidate Donald Trump that we often fail to see the larger pattern here, which is incredibly sad. For the first time in the history of this great country, one of our two front-runners for President is a literal fascist, promising "stop and frisk" policing at home and "I love war" foreign policy abroad, and thrilling his rage-filled audiences with explicit racism, misogyny and hate speech. There are hopeful indications that Donald Trump will not win this election (though the unexpected results of Brexit and the Colombian peace referendum remind us that the unthinkable could still happen here.) Even so, the fact that a fascist is polling at 40-something percent in the United States of America is disturbing as hell. American fascism is clearly on the rise, and will not end with the defeat of Donald Trump.
In Poland, meanwhile, at this moment protestors are standing strong against the continuing offenses of an inhumane right-wing government that does not find a woman's right to make her own decisions about her pregnancy consistent with its notion of freedom.
What do we do with all the despair we must feel today, this week, this month, this year?
Answer: we keep fighting. We don't give up. We keep talking and we keep writing.
There is no other path. We fight on for human rights, for human decency, for freedom, for peace.
It's sad when we find ourselves fighting our own friends and neighbors for what we know is right. It's mind-boggling when we are forced to feel that we are even fighting ourselves.
We keep fighting — fighting together. We console each other. We explore the limits of our ability to hope and care and believe. We discover that we can help each other find hope when hope seems lost.
2016 sure hasn't been a good year on planet Earth.
We will never give up.