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Hilary Hodge: 2016 — The end of innocence

Hilary Hodge

It would be remiss at the end of 2016 to fail to mention the incredible level of tragedy contained in just 365 days. This single year has done so much to assault culture, politics, and values.

My generation grew up in the age of information, in a Mass Media Cultural Revolution, a culture that has been feeding my generation heroes and villains from music, movies and real life. My generation and younger has had unparalleled access to every inch of ink spilled on any subject imaginable. Except instead of ink, it is an ether scrolling past our screens, sometimes informing, sometimes corrupting, always entertaining.

With access to the internet, any person could look up the full text of the US Constitution, pending congressional bills, standing UN Treaties, or trade agreements. From our desks, each of us can view pictures of cities in Zimbabwe, art in Chile, or food in Japan. It is not just possible but relatively easy to explore the entire character history and houses of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or to learn Star Trek’s Klingon language. There are more than 300 hours of video uploaded to Youtube every minute regarding every possible current phenomenon, news event, cultural happening, and more. So much literature and poetry is published on the internet that it would take a person more than one lifetime to read it all.

And yet, with all the information, some things are still canon. Some things are still sacred. There are agreed upon norms in culture — a tie that binds us, a thread that connects us. We share favorite books and songs. This is not coincidence. We love the same stories and share agreed-upon heroes and because we share a value system.

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”Leonard Cohen

No single year of my life has done more to assault that value system than 2016.

2016 destroyed the last vestiges of my cultural childhood from claiming the life of David Bowie, the Goblin King from Labyrinth, my favorite childhood movie, to silencing the prophetic and angelic poetry of my favorite writer, Leonard Cohen. We lost so many heroes this year.

Beyond literature and pop culture, I feel as though I am living at a time when the world has lost its mind or, at the very least, its sense of human decency.

This year has awoken so many of us to the attitudes of injustice that still plague our culture. From the mainstreaming of racism in America, to the ongoing struggle at Standing Rock for clean water, environmental protection and honoring native treaties, to electing Donald Trump, a volatile demagogue with no record or reputation for having the interests of America above his own, America has learned we have a lot of work to do.

Even beyond our borders, we see attitudes shifting towards modern populism and isolationism pitting cultures and countries against one another. We saw this with Brexit and the recent rejection of a constitutional referendum that was held in Italy. First-world countries, which have so long benefitted from plundering the resources of neighboring countries is now looking toward cultural insulation as a solution to modern economic problems. Distrust of government is manifesting in leadership as cross-cultural apathy. The world watched as Aleppo fell, the screams of children airing through social media and falling on the mostly deaf ears of world leaders.

Even though we have access to a global community, rather than shifting our consciousness to the global well-being, many are choosing fear and living in a world of separatism. The inability to connect and collaborate will only accelerate our world’s problems and poverty. Our continual denial that our actions have the potential to have a global impact will only make that impact greater. Our ignorance will not save us.

Which brings us to the end of 2016 and perhaps the end of an era.

If there was an innocence in our society, still holding us gently and blinding us to the real cruelty of our world, 2016 has destroyed it. So many of us figured out this year that our heroes are fallible.

And so the stable kindness and quiet voices are starting to grow. We are realizing that we are our culture. We are our values. We are our heroes.

As I go forward leaving 2016 behind me and looking with hope to 2017, I find comfort in the words of Leonard Cohen: “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Hilary Hodge lives in Grass Valley. Her column is published by The Union on Tuesdays. Contact her at hhodgewriter@gmail.com.

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