So what shall we talk about to start the year? Could be almost anything, couldn’t it? Got all the same problems we did last year, but hey, I (and I suspect you) screwed off, last night, and the dog ate my homework. So we’ll start off with some stuff from other people. Like this year-end summary from Dave Barry.
In the future, Americans — assuming there are any left — will look back at 2016 and remark: “What the HELL?”
They will have a point. Over the past few decades, we here at the Year in Review have reviewed some pretty disturbing years. For example, there was 2000, when the outcome of a presidential election was decided by a tiny group of deeply confused Florida residents who had apparently attempted to vote by chewing on their ballots.
Then there was 2003, when a person named “Paris Hilton” suddenly became a major international superstar, despite possessing a level of discernible talent so low as to make the Kardashians look like the Jackson 5.
There was 2006, when the vice president of the United States — who claimed he was attempting to bring down a suspected quail — shot a 78-year-old man in the face, only to be exonerated after an investigation revealed that the victim was an attorney.
And — perhaps most inexplicable of all — there was 2007, when millions of people voluntarily installed Windows Vista.
Yes, we’ve seen some weird years. But we’ve never seen one as weird as 2016. This was the Al Yankovic of years. If years were movies, 2016 would be “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” If years were relatives, 2016 would be the uncle who shows up at your Thanksgiving dinner wearing his underpants on the outside.
Why do we say this? Let’s begin with the gruesome train wreck that was the presidential election. The campaign began with roughly 14,000 candidates running. Obviously not all of them were qualified to be president; some of them — here we are thinking of “Lincoln Chafee” — were probably imaginary. But a reasonable number of the candidates seemed to meet at least the minimum standard that Americans have come to expect of their president in recent decades, namely: Not Completely Horrible.
So this mass of candidates began the grim death march that is the modern American presidential campaign — trudging around Iowa pretending to care about agriculture, performing in an endless series of televised debates like suit-wearing seals trained to bark out talking points, going to barbecue after barbecue and smiling relentlessly through mouthfuls of dripping meat, giving the same speech over and over and over, shaking millions of hands, posing for billions of selfies and just generally humiliating themselves in the marathon group grovel that America insists on putting its presidential candidates through.
And we voters did our part, passing judgment on the candidates, thinning the herd, rejecting them one by one. Sometimes we had to reject them more than once; John Kasich didn’t get the message until his own staff felled him with tranquilizer darts. But eventually we eliminated the contenders whom we considered to be unqualified or disagreeable, whittling our choices down until only two major candidates were left. And out of all the possibilities, the two that We, the People, in our collective wisdom, deemed worthy of competing for the most important job on Earth, turned out to be …
… drum roll …
… the most flawed, sketchy and generally disliked duo of presidential candidates ever!
Yes. After all that, the American people, looking for a leader, ended up with a choice between ointment and suppository. The fall campaign was an unending national nightmare, broadcast relentlessly on cable TV. CNN told us over and over that Donald Trump was a colossally ignorant, narcissistic, out-of-control sex-predator buffoon; Fox News countered that Hillary Clinton was a greedy, corrupt, coldly calculating liar of massive ambition and minimal accomplishment. And in our hearts we knew the awful truth: They were both right.
It wasn’t just bad. It was the Worst. Election. Ever.
And that was only one of the reasons why 2016 should never have happened. Here are some others:
▪ American race relations reached their lowest point since … OK, since 2015.
▪ We learned that the Russians are more involved in our election process than the League of Women Voters.
▪ For much of the year the economy continued to struggle, with the only growth sector being people paying insane prices for tickets to “Hamilton.”
▪ In a fad even stupider than “planking,” millions of people wasted millions of hours, and sometimes risked their lives, trying to capture imaginary Pokémon Go things on their phones, hoping to obtain the ultimate prize: a whole bunch of imaginary Pokémon Go things on their phones.
▪ A major new threat to American communities — receiving at least as much coverage as global climate change —emerged in the form of: Clowns.
▪ In a shocking development that caused us to question our most fundamental values, Angelina and Brad broke up even though they are both physically attractive.
▪ We continued to prove, as a nation, that no matter how many times we are reminded, we are too stupid to remember to hold our phones horizontally when we make videos.
▪ Musically, we lost Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael and Debbie Reynolds; we gained the suicide-inducing TV commercial in which Jon Bon Jovi screeches about turning back time.
Did anything good happen in 2016? Let us think …
OK, the “man bun” appeared to be going away.
That was pretty much it for the good things.
And now, finally, it is time for 2016 to go away. But before it does, let’s narrow our eyes down to slits and take one last squinting look back at this hideous monstrosity of a year, starting with …