The Year That Was 2017
I remember lugging my Houghton Mifflin textbook to class, reading about the the Civil War, the first man on the moon, and the Great Depression. Flash forward to 2017. Perusing listicles and yearly recaps, I got to thinking — what will future history students learn about the tumultuous year that was 2017 in their textbooks?
We all gonna die
I hate to begin on such a dismal note, but with scary news stories coming from every direction in 2017, it seems only right to begin with the bad.
As you probably already know, we were terrible to our planet back in 2017. I’m guessing you’re reading this textbook through a gas mask in an underground quarry. Does Miami still exist? Are bees a fictitious thing from the past?
Anyways, the news was bleak. Over the summer, devastating hurricanes ravaged the Caribbean and the southeastern United States. Wildfires tore through California. And in September, scientists announced 2017 was on track to be one of the hottest years on record.
And what did our dear president do? Pull America from the Paris Climate Agreement, of course.
(While wrapping up this textbook entry, another Trump tweet pings on my phone. “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!” he said. Awesome.)
North F*cking Korea
If the precarious state of our planet wasn’t scary enough, things got more frightening with North Korea. For decades, the US government has worked to prevent the rogue government from acquiring nuclear weapons. However, despite these efforts, in September 2017, North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test. This Asian nation now has the capability to bomb a US city.
Unsurprisingly, our bombastic president didn’t help the situation. He tweeted that North Korea will “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” He repeatedly called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “Little Rocket Man.” He used that nickname before the United Nations. Elton has yet to comment.
Now ladies, get in formation
As promised, there were some shining moments of 2017 worth mentioning. Unsurprisingly, the best came from women.
The Women's March
The most iconic fashion statement of 2017 was one no one saw coming. Wondering what it was, class of 2040? Picture a knitted hat bedecked with pussy cat ears. Now multiply that by the thousands.
On January 21, 2017, women across the country (and the world!) came together in reaction to the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Feminists and allies made signs, marched, and successfully demonstrated the power of women fighting back.
In the summer, women again came together in unison. But this time, they stormed the box office instead of the streets. Wonder Woman, a Marvel film directed by Patti Jenkins, grossed $103.251 million on its opening weekend. When it left theaters, the film had scored more than $819 million worldwide. At the time, it was the highest grossing movie made by a solo female director. (I’m hoping that by 2040, female directors will be less of an anomaly). Wonder Woman fought her way into our hearts and took all the names.
Later in the year, women again came together by engaging with the #MeToo movement. In 2017, this social media trend proved that America has a sexual assault problem.
The movement began with allegations around media mogul Harvey Weinstein. Soon, similar stories proliferated like wildfire; every day, Americans learned about other powerful men accused of sexual harassment. No industry was safe; high profile figures like Louis C.K., Mario Batali, and Matt Lauer were all accused. It should be noted that blue collar workers also struggled to be heard. To learn more about that part of the story, I recommend checking out this podcast on conditions at a Ford auto plant. (Do podcasts still exist in 2040? Is Serial now a campy throwback?)
And finally, a point of light (or, well, a lack thereof)
Public opinion polls will tell you that America in 2017 was divided. Our country felt splintered, fractured into urban and rural, young and old, educated and uneducated. Finding a unifying event was nearly impossible. But there were some moments worth mentioning. People came together to help victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Pop culture celebrated Moonlight and adored Hamilton. Collectively, we binge watched Game of Thrones. As a country, we unilaterally rejected Kendall Jenner’s tone deaf Pepsi ad.
And in 2017, the solar eclipse made astronomers of us all. And if any event brought us true light, it’s certainly the one that obscured it.
So, there it is. A magnificent roller coaster of a year, with dazzling highs and devastating lows. A year of Roy Moore and neo-Nazi rallies and Trump tweets. But, it should be noted, 2017 was also the year of Beyoncé's twins, Stranger Things season 2, and iPhone X facial recognition. Women writers, directors, and activists dominated the headlines, paving the way for future female work.
Americans should look back on this year with horror, delight, and a healthy dose of confusion. But mostly, students, I hope you have found this glimpse into 2017 instructive and intriguing.
Feature image by Brooke Lark via Unsplash