On the last day of 2016, it was almost 6 in the evening in New York City, 3 pm in Los Angeles, and 11 pm in London. Helsinki and Cape Town had just finished ringing in the New Year; Paris had less than an hour to go until the sky over the Eiffel Tower would light up with fireworks. But for those partying up the first hours of 2017 at the popular Reina nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey, it didn’t take long after midnight before the first day of the year became a nightmare.
In the midst of the celebrations, around 1:45 AM a gunman dressed as Santa Claus opened fire on around 600 Turks and foreigners enjoying the festivities, “[raining] bullets in a very cruel and merciless way on innocent people who were there to celebrate New Year’s and have fun,” said Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin. At least 39 were reported killed, with 69 more suffering injuries. ISIS later took credit for the terror attack, and an international manhunt is underway for a man codenamed ‘Abu Muhammed Horasani,’ who is believed to be the killer responsible. The Daily Mail described Horasani as “a battle-hardened militant trained in Syria… spirited into the country by a mysterious ISIS handler codenamed ‘Teacher Yusuf,’” also reporting that while he is currently on the run, arrests related to the investigation have been made by Turkish anti-terror police. On the same day the Hollyweed sign hit the internet, the Turkish were facing the aftermath of their latest tragedy in a never-ending chain- one that just happened to take place on the first of January. Happy New Year, folks.
The 21st century’s sixteenth year was a complicated one tinged with fear and divisiveness. Americans watched as Trump took the 45th presidency after months of preaching racist, sexist, Islamo- and xenophobic rhetoric; following his election, incidences of racism increased and many of America’s Muslim women feared for their own safety if they continued to wear the hijab. It was a year of gay nightclub shootings and airport bombings; a year of watching politicians send prayers to attack victims, all the while accepting money from the National Rifle Association for helping block gun laws. From July’s Bastille Day fatalities in France to the Berlin Christmas market attack for which investigations are still ongoing, it seemed that every other week a new act of terror was making major international headlines. Even then, many more in the Middle East went relatively unnoticed: massacres and executions, shootings and kidnappings, funeral bombings and suicide bombings. On top of that, there were the other victims of violence and hatred this year- Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Christina Grimmie- and the many public figures we lost- Carrie Fisher, Prince, David Bowie, Alan Rickman… looking back, it seemed like the loss and death would never end.
All things considered, it’s really no surprise that the world was ready to move on to a new chapter. It’s a nice thought to hope that 2017 brings with it a bright hope new promise of history yet to be written, a clean slate, a fresh start- and there’s nothing wrong with that, really. That’s the kind of hope that enables us to dream of a world where our gender and the color of our skin do not determine our value in society – it’s precisely that belief in a better world that, combined with determined action, fuels the fire that is social justice and awareness. But at the same time, it makes no sense to believe that this year will be better simply on account of its being new. Our world is still the same. In the end the calendar’s just a bunch of numbers and nothing significant actually changes from the 31st of December to the 1st of January. We may be using a different number to keep track of the date now, but keep in mind we still have to face the consequences of last year’s events and decisions in a way that would not make sense if 2017 really is a clean slate. I’m not saying that this year can’t be better than the last, because I certainly want it to be. What I’m saying is that if, in a year’s time, we want to be able to look back at 2017 and find that the world has changed for the better, we are going to have to change it. History will write itself either way- it’s just up to us to determine the direction in which it goes.
This coming year- find a cause you care about and give it what you can. Or use your one voice to amplify somebody who has something important to say but isn’t being heard, because two people shouting is always bound to attract more attention than one. Begin to care about the news you read: wonder about the people in the stories, the nameless casualties; it can get overwhelming but it’s got to be better than apathy. Exercise your compassion; be polite to even the most aggravating of internet strangers; hold the door open for the guy on his phone. It starts with the little things. Because you may not be able to stop ISIS or eradicate misogyny single-handedly, but anyone can make this world just that one bit of a better place by changing little things, even if just within yourself. It’s the people that make the world, and it’s the world that makes the year, yeah? So let’s make this one good.
This article was written by Jade Carraway, a writer for dusk magazine.