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17 Things I Learned in 2017

Contrary to popular opinion, 2017 was a pretty good year. I've been blessed with relative stability and the chance to make positive changes to my lifestyle, and I can honestly find nothing to complain about. That's not to say it's been a fruitless year for learning. Below you will find all manner of lessons, and we're going to start with politics. If you don't want to hear me wax about political nonsense, don't worry: it's only on this page. Skip ahead if you want to stick with my more personal lessons. If you do that, you clearly don't need my first bit of advice:


#1. Less Politics is Good for the Sanity
Political Affiliations and Mental Conditions
#1. Less Politics is Good for the Sanity
Political Affiliations and Mental Conditions

I can't say I avoided politics altogether in 2017--there's quite a bit of it below--but my consumption of political news and opinions was significantly decreased in 2017. Chalk it up to being exhausted by the train wreck that was the 2016 election, the shrill tones from both sides of an increasingly biased press, the pathetic #resist "movement" from the left, the incoherent and incompetent messaging from the right, the cringe-worthy awfulness of the president's Twitter account, or just an overall desire to live my life free of such poorly conceived melodrama, but regardless of why I did it, I did it, and my mental well-being is generally improved as a result. I urge you to do the same, if it's all getting to be a bit too much for you. Take a step back, go outside, talk to your neighbors, visit new places, whatever. Just steer clear of politics for the majority of your day, and you'll find that the sun shines a little brighter, your faith in humanity burns a little bit stronger, and you'll sleep a little more soundly.


#2. There's Always an Armageddon
Scream at the sky
#2. There's Always an Armageddon
Scream at the sky

Ever since Trump became president, the left has been overtaken by apocalyptic visions of doom and has chosen rhetoric well outside the bounds of realism. Partisan hyperbole is nothing new, of course, (and I'm not saying I haven't done it myself) but 2017 has been the worst year in my memory for this kind of unhinged madness when it comes to politics. Whether it's pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords, threatening "fire and fury" over chemical weapons attacks in Syria, firing James Comey, attempting to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, approving changes to FCC rules about net neutrality, signing a new tax law, or getting into schoolyard-level banter with Kim Jong Un, every single thing this administration has done since taking office has been characterized as the end of times, pushed into ever more over-the-top levels of unsatirable panic by a news media more obsessed with partisan hackery than actual news and political leaders who, with a straight face, say things like "this is Armageddon" over a bit of policy they disagree with.


#3. Republican Campaign Promises Mean Nothing
McCain Campaign Ad
#3. Republican Campaign Promises Mean Nothing
McCain Campaign Ad

No, I don't consider it a mind-blowing revelation that politicians lie on the campaign trail. It's been standard practice since the dawn of man that a leader will say anything to earn power and then completely ignore whatever he or she said to get it. But I've never seen this so blatantly demonstrated than by Republicans in 2017. For the last four election cycles, Republicans have been running--successfully--on the promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the signature accomplishment of President Obama's first term. When Republicans were in the minority, they voted multiple times to do just that, knowing full well it would never get presidential approval. They swore they had multiple replacement plans lined up, just waiting for voters to give them sufficient control. The unpopularity of Obamacare is probably the single biggest factor contributing to the rise of the Tea Party and to the eventual Republican majority in both houses of Congress, but when they finally had a president who would sign on to a repeal, what did they do? They failed to even come close to taking the first measly little step in thinking about maybe doing something that might be considered a middling contribution to the effort to repeal a tiny fraction of Obamacare. I see no reason why anybody should ever believe them about anything anymore.


#4. Our President is His Own Worst Enemy
Trump tweeting
#4. Our President is His Own Worst Enemy
Trump tweeting

How much of the 2017 news cycle was dominated by the president's Twitter account? It's gotta be in the double digits, percentage-wise. Donald Trump's bad Twitter habits preceded his taking office, but you'd think, now that he's president, he'd tone down his ludicrous rhetoric, consider his words carefully, and stop acting like a twelve-year-old Internet troll. He hasn't. One of the reasons the press (or, as right-wing news outlets like to call it, the "Mainstream Media") can't seem to lose their obsession with Trump is that he won't let them. Remember when serious news outlets spent an entire day on the ramifications of "covfefe"? Unfortunately, it's not just limited to idiotic things spurted out on social media. When white supremacists violently faced off with Antifa in Charlottesville, for example, the president actually tried to split the baby by telling us that there are "very fine people" on either side of the debate. Jesus, what a moron.


#5. "Whataboutism" is the Latest Infuriating Trend
Whataboutism
#5. "Whataboutism" is the Latest Infuriating Trend
Whataboutism

I have a gut feeling that, if it weren't for Roy Moore running for Senate, the wide-reaching sexual assault scandals of 2017 would have faded from the headlines. When allegations came out regarding the Republican candidate from Alabama, however, it was inevitable that those scandals--previously isolated to Hollywood--would spread rather than recede. On one hand, this is unquestionably a good thing: we as a society should be well past the point where this kind of behavior is swept under the rug and forgotten about. On the other hand, it turned it into a partisan issue--an ignoratio elenchi talking point--with each party taking turns asking "what about that guy over there?" To be sure, leaders of both parties ultimately got on message and condemned bad behavior on all sides (not counting the president, of course, who endorsed Moore to the bitter end), but it was hard to take seriously the hand-wringing over the likes of Bill Clinton--especially by the press--when it came from people who were all too eager to either defend or condemn Roy Moore for political gain.

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-e. magill 1/11/2018

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