I saw this article on Facebook this morning, and I thought there were some good points in it, particularly about the people who died being the ones who reflect the breaking of barriers in the era in which they lived, the ones who redefined in some way what it meant to be human. But there is one piece in it that made me roll my eyes, that I’m seeing more and more in discussions about the events of the year, especially on Twitter:
First and perhaps foremost, this wasn’t “2016’s fault.” Years are not human beings. Stop anthropomorphizing them! Bears don’t roam around Jellystone Park stealing pic-a-nic baskets, nor do sponges cook crabby patties and live in a pineapple under the sea. Simply put, calendar years don’t murder people.

You don’t say.

I’m really mystified by how annoyed it makes some people to see others “blame” the year 2016, who think the people doing it are convinced that everything bad that’s happening is literally bounded by the date range of the year. Come on. I would venture to say there is absolutely no one (of sound mind or maturity, at least) who actually thinks everything will be just dandy fine on January 1.

Human beings organize their time in semi-arbitrary chunks for good reason. And having done so, people are going to take note of things that happen in those arbitrary chunks, and they will characterize those arbitrary chunks. If you have ever said “This was a terrible day,” then maybe back off anyone who is “blaming” 2016. Have you ever made New Year’s resolutions, or set New Year’s goals? People get to characterize their own lives, and an enormous number of people were upset by the things that happened between 1/1/16 and 12/31/16. If you weren’t troubled by 2016, good for you! That’s awesome. There is no social mandate to be upset by it. But tons of people were, and for non-crazy reasons. That’s okay.

But lecturing people about hating on 2016 seems a little high-handed to me. If it’s an arbitrary, non-human concept, then it seems like a harmless outlet, and even a healthy bonding mechanism, for grieving or frustration. There is no harm in it. Indeed, the opposite is true: it’s a narrative and rhetorical device that gives common voice to the fear and the grief that comes from what many saw as terribly painful events in 2016. Again, you don’t have to do it yourself. But hectoring other people for it, and going so far as to tell them to “stop anthropomorphizing” the year 2016, as did the author of the otherwise interesting article linked above, is pointless, possibly hypocritical, and even a little obnoxious. I have a suggestion: try a little empathy instead.

Like this elephant, I will be giving the finger — or the trunk, as it were — to the back end of 2016. 2017 may be just as bad, or worse. Or it may be deeply worthwhile. That’s the joy of life: we get to see, until we don’t anymore. Happy New Year.


Edited to add: (As often happens, a lot of the discussion happens on Facebook, and you should see the Trailhead’s Facebook page for a well-stated counterpoint to this post. It’s worth reading.)


4 thoughts on “I’ll call 2016 what I want, thank you

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