January 2017

Line in the Sand: Is 2017 Going to be a Better Year or Worse?

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Opinion 1: Barry Kaufman

I hate to be the bearer of bad news; really, I do. From what I’ve heard about Courtney’s side of this topic, she’s written something beautiful and inspirational, and I urge you, if you have an optimistic bone in your body, to stop reading my half right now and enjoy whatever it is she wrote. Because I’m about to ruin this year for you before it’s even begun.

It’s not something I want to do. It’s something I have to do: warn you, before history repeats itself.
Look, we all just barely survived 2016 by the skin of our teeth. We lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman before last year’s Christmas decorations had come down, and 2016 just kept finding ways to get more terrible. I won’t get into it. We all lived it.

As I write this in early December, the top story on the actual real world news is that the President-elect of the United States is currently trolling a fellow global superpower on Twitter, as grownups tend to do.
But here’s the thing: 2016 was pretty terrible. So was 2015.

In a story published in late 2015 titled, “Ignore the headlines: 2015 was a great year,” CNN led with the following: “If you spend a lot of time with us here on CNN (and we hope you do), you probably think 2015 was a pretty terrible year: Wars. Refugees. Terrorism. The list goes on.”

First of all, CNN, that kind of groveling is why you’re the RC Cola of news channels now.
Second, if the best you can say about a year is “Besides all the war, refugees and terror, 2015 wasn’t so bad,” then I have to believe you don’t know what at least three, or possibly any, of those words mean.

Third, thank goodness we don’t have to worry about wars, refugees and terrorism anymore, right?

But didn’t we all kind of walk out of 2015, that hot bag of thrift store undies of a year, thinking 2016 would be better? And didn’t 2016 basically say, “hold my beer” before proving us all spectacularly wrong?

So, what makes us think that 2017 will be any different?

If you Google “Why 2017 Will Be Awesome,” you get 200,000 results.
If you Google “Why 2017 Will Be Terrible,” you get 5.9 million.
And yeah, that’s more a function of people being giant pessimists than writing about it on the Internet. But that sort of thing has already made one guy president.

The reasons Google gives for why 2017 will be terrible form a pretty compelling picture of a year poised to pin us down and ask why we’re hitting ourselves. One article notes that the Farmer’s Almanac, with its 80 percent accuracy rate, is predicting some seriously gnarly weather for the coming year (I’m paraphrasing, of course). And before you write them off, they predicted the same thing last year and were proven seriously right. They’re honorary members of House Stark at this point.

Another search result notes the many ways that stocks are set to tank. A third just mysteriously says “Jimmy Kimmel will host the Oscars.” A fourth is a YouTube video of a kid rambling about 2017 into a camera while playing video games.

If you’re wondering why that’s a bad sign, realize that this kid rambling into a camera while playing video games has nearly 4,000 subscribers. He’s the future of our country.

So yeah, 2017 will be terrible. Because 2015 was a little terrible and yet we all walked into 2016 with hope in our hearts. Then 2016 somehow stuffed 24 months of awful into a 12-month bag. And I’m sorry, I just refuse to be fooled again.

2017, I’m ready for you. And if you made it this far, so are you. 

10 reasons the future will be terrifying:
10. Terminators
9. Domestic Drones
8. Rising Sea Levels
7. The Next Pandemic
6. Antibiotic Resistant Microbes
5. Peak Oil
4. Growing Extremism
3. Mechanization
2. The New Social Contract
1. Global Famine

Opinion 2: Courtney Hampson

It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving as I sat in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, at the funeral of a man whom I had never met. He was a 13-year veteran of Savannah Fire Department and died the week prior in the line of duty. Many of the people inside that church were strangers to him too. The congregation was a mix of friends, family, and the brotherhood of the fire service. It was standing room only inside the church, and outside, too, as a crowd gathered to pay their respects. The entire city of Savannah felt the loss that day.

As soon as we stepped out of the parking garage, a woman immediately came up to the uniformed officer beside whom I was walking, extended her hand, thanked him for his service and shared her sorrow for his loss.

It was overwhelming to stand at the corner of Abercorn and Oglethorpe, just across the street from fire headquarters. The flag out front flew at half-mast, and tourists flocked past on their way to visit Colonial Park Cemetery. It was hard not to notice the line of engines, from near and far, parked along the street, and the hundreds of men and women in Class A uniforms. A few passersby stopped to ask what had happened, and all quickly bowed their heads and whispered condolences upon hearing the news.

When Chris Sams began to speak about his best friend, fallen firefighter Michael Curry, he used language so vivid and stories so powerful that I am certain everyone left that church wishing they had known Curry. I did. He could have easily been my friend. Everyone would have wanted this man as their friend. He was active in his church, a father, a scout leader, a brother, a son, and he died doing what he loved—a hero. I imagine, though, that his heroism extended well behind those days when he would don his uniform. And, this is how I know. Sams told the story of the “buddy bench,” an idea that Curry came up with after observing his scouts, and his son, and recognizing that sometimes this can be a cruel, cruel world, especially for kids. The idea behind Curry’s buddy bench was that it was a safe zone—a spot for children who, when they needed a friend, could sit there and wait for a comforting grin. When a child saw someone on the bench, Curry’s hope was that other children would reach out; he watched it work, time and time again.

Following the service, the congregation slowly, methodically, row-by-row, followed the casket from the church to the fire engine, where it began the half-mile procession back to fire headquarters. I was humbled, and honored to walk behind that engine, next to members of Bluffton Township Fire District, and among hundreds of others who gathered to pay their respects. As we walked the streets of Savannah, led by bagpipes, on this busy holiday weekend, people spilled from restaurants and stores; they stood on front porches, and hotel balconies. You could hear a pin drop. No one said a word. No one had to. I watched a man step from a bar, pint glass in one hand, the other hand held in a perfect salute as the engine and everyone behind it passed.

It is moments like these that make me believe there is hope. People are good. People are kind. People make a difference. Master Firefighter Michael Curry made a difference. And even in death, his message carries on.

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