Yes, People Blame 2016 on Their Grief, and That’s Okay

It’s been a near-universal constant that 2016 has been a difficult year.  Between the deaths of high-profile celebrities and entertainers, as well as political upheavals, it pretty much goes without saying that 2016 was fraught with many an infamous moment. Heck, 2016 may be a hurtful year to you if you’re a rabid enough White Sox fan (something I say with authority–I’ve seen some appalling words and behavior from White Sox fans directed at Cubs enthusiasts).

It’s gotten to the point that people blaming the year itself has become the default response whenever we hear about another celebrity death.  It’s as if 2016 has become the personification of death and despair itself:

  • “Damn you 2016, don’t you DARE take Carrie Fisher from us!”
  • “I’m done with you, 2016.  WHY did you take Anton Yelchin from us?!”
  • “Omg, 2016, how could you allow a giant Oompa-Loompa to take the White House?”
These are certainly not the most rational of responses, but as most of them are fueled by grief, they make a certain amount of sense.  2016 is certainly the common denominator for a number of grief-inducing events, from the deaths of beloved entertainers such as David Bowie and Alan Rickman to the Brexit decision and the 2016 US election, depending on how you view your politics. A lot of people had a lot of emotional capital invested in these people or situations, and when they imploded or expired, it’s natural that a grief response would follow.
But perhaps inevitably, there is an emerging backlash rearing its head online.
I’ve lately been seeing a lot of posts denigrating people for “blaming 2016” for the terrible things that have happened over the last 12 months.  These sentiments are typically coached in terms of pedantic rationalism, with posters bemoaning people’s lack of self-awareness and sense of accountability; or in a simple grumpiness that “things happen” and that people blaming a year makes said poster sick.  I’m now just waiting for someone to swoop in with the “time is a social construct, and doesn’t really exist, and by blaming a unit of time for your problems you are showing how small you are,” argument.
Such posts may give their originators a temporary sense of superiority, or allow them to think themselves smarter than the average bear, but all it really does is show them to be far too concerned with how others grieve.  I think it’s a reasonable assumption that most of the people cursing 2016 don’t actually think it’s a person or entity capable of deliberately wreaking havoc on the things and people we love.  It’s an obviously irrational act, born from an emotion that is typically not known for inducing calm deliberation in those afflicted with it.
Step off and let people feel what they feel, for crying out loud.
2016 HAS been an unusually turbulent year, and some people choose to grieve by collectively blaming the year, much the same way they celebrate the fandoms they love. Just because one doesn’t see the appeal of Star Wars, Star Trek, or Doctor Who doesn’t mean that person should make fun of others for liking them.  By the same measure, someone doesn’t respond to these events the same way as others should not try to browbeat people into thinking and feeling the way they do.
better_than_youIf you’re one of those folks who feels the need to make these snarky response posts, take my advice and just let people grieve in the way that most fits them.  I know it may be a little annoying, but it’s not like it isn’t coming from a genuine place.  Trying to put people in their “place” for their venting only makes you come off as douchey, elitist, and far too concerned with others’s responses to things that don’t concern you. You’re just a half step removed from being a bully.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, But Not Until These Things Happen

For me, the holidays are a fairly arbitrary thing.  They signify the end of the year is approaching, and there are the requisite get-togethers, parties, and feasts that tend to happen around them.  Many of the other trappings–decorating the house, putting up a Christmas tree, wading into the warzones shopping lines to get gifts for others–are catch as catch can: I’ll do them if time/energy/money/inclination allow, but I don’t really think to do them that often.  The stress simply isn’t worth it most of the time.

There are, however, two conditions that have to be met before I personally get into “the Christmas spirit,” where I’ll allow myself to admit that it’s now the thick of the holiday season and maybe even start thinking yuletide thoughts.  This very personal, and therefore likely rather eccentric short list is something that has simply become a necessity for me over the years, and hasn’t altered in as long as I can remember.  If you want to get me to come out and go Christmas caroling with you–a doozy of a proposition in any case–then I’d suggest you make sure the following conditions already have been met.

5a2fe25f79d1cc38daaa3799445a51f3First, bring me the Little Debbie’s Christmas Tree Cakes.  And not just any kind, I want the GOOD ones, the chocolate ones.  I’ve seen a lot more of the white cream chocolate cakes in recent years, as well as an emerging green frosted variety, and I’ve never cared for them.  These confections are only made during the holiday months, and I start to see them between Halloween and Thanksgiving, when the year’s candy has gone on sale at the grocery stores.  I require at least a couple packages of these to chomp on throughout the season, to remind me both how sweet life can be at this time of year and how much I like to gamble with my blood sugar levels.

Second, I must view at least one of the two most sacred of Christmas movies.
 There can be little argument that one of the best–if indeed not the best–Christmas films is Die Hard. Between the humor, action, and memorable lines and characters,  it’s a standout in a veritable sea of movies competing for your attention during any given holiday national-lampoons-christmas-vacation-11457season.  If Bruce Willis isn’t lecturing loudly to an emergency call handler about how he’s not ordering a pizza, he’s scrawling messages about how he now has a gun (ho ho ho!) to the assailants of the office Christmas party he finds himself at.  The other most sacred of Christmas films, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, is a shocking yet delightful documentary on just how stressful the holidays can be, as viewed through the eyes of Chevy Chase’s ever-suffering Clark Griswold.  Everything that can go wrong, does go wrong, and how he manages to make it through the holidays without losing his mind–or his family, for that matter–is nothing short of a miracle.

So, there you have it.  Insofar as this aspiring writer is concerned, it’s not the Christmas season–and I’m not in the “Christmas spirit”–until I’m sugared up on the chocolate Christmas Tree Cakes, and I’ve either seen Hans Gruber fall from Nakatomi Plaza or Randy Quaid kidnap Brian Doyle Murray for Chevy Chase’s benefit.  Those things, to me, signify the holidays.