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Thom Barker: Looking back, looking ahead

Thom Barker
Thom Barker - Submitted

You know you’ve been at something for a considerable number of years when you reach an annual milestone and think something along the lines of: ‘I can’t believe it’s that time of year again.’ Yet here it is, late December, and a journalist’s fancy turns lightly to thoughts of retrospective and projection.

It is tradition in our business to look back on the year that was and ahead to the one that will soon be. I have often mused about how arbitrary it is to segment our lives in this way, but I suppose it is our nature to be arbitrary. Inevitably, as distinct as one year is to the next, very little fundamentally changes from December 31 to January 1, yet we persist in going through this annual exercise.

Once you’ve written several of these year-enders, the fear is you will repeat yourself. This year, I face little danger of offending in that particular way as my audience is undoubtedly quite different considering I have undertaken a relocation of some 5,500 to 6,000 kilometres since I last sat at the keyboard musing about repeating myself in a year-ender.

Of course, it is a conceit of the creative ego to think even your core audience is paying enough attention to notice you have repeated yourself, or even that you have a core audience. I must feed that conceit, however, otherwise I would just stop writing.

As far as looking back goes, on a personal level it has been a year of great change and that will be one of my two most enduring memories of 2017. The other is Donald Trump becoming president of the United States. I still cringe every time someone says “the president” and I realize they are talking about such a disgraceful human being. I still wake up many mornings with a knot in the pit of my stomach that asks what new affront to decency ‘the president’ has wrought overnight?

The era of Trump has done one good thing for me. It has forced me to take a step back from politics. I was a political junkie for many years, but I just can’t take it anymore, particularly the profane polarization evident in social media commentary, which is another little something 2017 will remembered for.

It is difficult enough to engage in civil discourse face-to-face, but in the ether common ground is even harder to come by and it is very easy to ascribe to someone the worst possible version of his intentions and make other unfounded assumptions about his opinions and positions.

Even in recognizing that, I cannot claim to be immune to it. I do it all the time. Someone posts some stupid, illogical nonsense, I feel the hatred well up and when I give in to the temptation to comment back, I feel bad about it later.

There’s a great cartoon floating around in which a couple are conversing.

“Hey, are you coming to bed?” calls a person from outside the panel.

“I can’t, this is important,” replies the other, who is sitting at a computer.

“What is it?” the first asks.

“Someone is wrong on the Internet.”

I am not a person who formally makes New Year’s resolutions, but if there is one to be had it is in avoiding being sucked into these conflicts. Nobody is changing anybody else’s mind fighting on Facebook.

And, unfortunately, nothing we can do will make Donald Trump not the president, but with any luck that too shall pass. In the meantime, avoiding the craziness will hopefully make 2018 more bearable.

Happy New Year.

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