A year in review: Tragedy, politics and progress define 2018

Logo by Tim Hindes
Following the mass shooting at Tree of Life, Tim Hindes created the “Stronger Than Hate” design.

01/17/2019

By Alyse Kaminski | Staff Columnist 

I always feel anxious at the beginning of a new year. Who knows what I will remember 2019 for? Will it be a year of positivity and growth, or will it be daunting and discouraging? Although I cannot know what 2019 holds for me or anyone else, I want to reflect on political events that shaped 2018 and could affect the new year.

Prevalence of Mass Shootings: Honestly, at this point, it is tragically unsurprising that this is something that hugely affected 2018. Mass shootings are all too common now. On Feb. 14, a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed 17 students and staff. In the wake of the heartbreak, students from the school spoke up about the need for gun control, which began the #NeverAgain movement. Following that, hundreds of thousands of Americans, students in particular, joined together for The March for Our Lives. I attended the Pittsburgh march, and it was an experience I will not forget. It was a refreshing reminder that our generation is the future, and it made me believe that common sense gun laws will be passed, although it may not be for a while.

As 2018 came to an end, the unthinkable happened when a mass shooting occured miles away from where I grew up. I always feel upset and angry when a shooting happens, but this one felt different. There were faces and names that my community recognized and loved. Our community had to grieve. The harsh reality of knowing that someone sick enough to do something so awful lived close to my loved ones and me still terrifies me.

And, of course, the incredible irritation that our government has not done much of anything to stop this overwhelming amount of destruction still lasts. Needless to say, every time I think of the Tree of Life Synagogue, I still feel the way I did when I heard the news. I still feel cold and gloomy when I think of the day my family and I paid our respects at the memorials outside the synagogue where it happened.

I hope that in 2019 our leaders make decisions that keep our country safe from those within it who wish to cause harm.

“Zero-Tolerance” Immigration Policy: Around June, the already boiling immigration debate grew thousands of degrees warmer when journalists were allowed inside a detention center in Texas. Images of adults and children in cages were all over the news and social media for a few weeks and everyone debated over whether or not it’s ethical, or even legal, to separate families at the border. Personally, my heart hurt for any child who was placed in these facilities, because regardless of my opinion on illegal immigration, it is obvious to me that the children in these situations are innocent. They didn’t ask to be born in an unsafe environment, and they do not deserve to be taken to a country that will rip them from their families.

Through the end of the year, the immigration debate continued to erupt with Trump’s relentless push for a border wall — a push that hurled the U.S. into its longest government shutdown in history. It is no secret that 2019 will be a year of arguments and probable chaos over immigration and the wall.

Midterm Elections: Despite all of the negative events of 2018, the midterm elections in November proved to be a pretty triumphant night, especially for women, members of the LGBT community and people of color. The newest House of Representatives is not only a Democratic majority, but one that will represent more than just white males. The 116th House includes the first two Native American women, four new LGBT people, an overall wave of youth swirling throughout and more victories for minorities. While I am happy to see a Democratic majority, especially in today’s climate, it is this sweep of diversity that is so heartwarming (and it is rare that I associate joy with politics these days). These men and women serving their communities give me hope for the new year that is ahead, despite all the negativity that is certain.

I don’t really have a specific word to describe 2018, but what I will say is that it was something else. Between all of these events, the division that ensued during the Kavanaugh hearing and confirmation and countless tweets and actions by President Trump that further divided the country, 2018 was a year of deep anger. Yet, I want to be as optimistic as possible for 2019.

We are not necessarily off to a great start, considering this ongoing government shutdown, but all I can hope for is that the only way is up. I hope that in 2019, Americans can be kinder to each other and more understanding. I hope we listen to what everyone has to say and be respectful. Most of all, I hope that 2019 brings the U.S. a great presidential candidate to beat Trump in 2020.

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