It seems like every year is dubbed “a year like no other.” But 2017 truly was more dramatic than many others.
The New President
Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20, outlining his vision of a new national populism and reiterating the same “America First” mantra that delivered the White House to him during the 2016 election.
In his first address as leader of the free world, Trump said his inauguration would signify a historic moment when “the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”
After months on the campaign trail marked by partisan division and deep skepticism from his critics, Trump told thousands in the nation’s capital that his agenda was for every American — even as protesters demonstrated against him elsewhere in Washington, D.C., including some who clashed with police hours later.
The next day, half a million marchers demonstrated for gender equality and against the new president during the Women’s March on Washington, brandishing pink hats and homemade signs in the streets near the National Mall.
Now more than a year since his election, Trump has made a mockery of the office – with childish tweets and rants against opponents, a compulsion to tell lies whenever it suits him, and an attack on American life – including opening up national parks to oil exploration, ending net neutrality so that corporations can decide what content you will see, and a tax plan that so blatantly favors the ultra wealthy and corporations (even while he says that the plan will help the average American), that you wonder how he gets away with it all. Trump’s presidency is a rape of America – with our money and resources transferring in even greater numbers to the rich and powerful.
The Mueller Investigation
Bowing to public and congressional pressure, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller in May as a special counsel to conduct the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
More than five months later, Mueller’s office indicted President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his longtime business associate Rick Gates on 12 charges, including money laundering, being an unregistered foreign agent and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
The special counsel’s office also announced that day that it had struck a cooperation agreement with former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos, who secretly pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his contacts with Kremlin-connected Russians.
In early December, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in federal court to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s probe.
The special counsel’s investigation is still ongoing.
Greater Tensions with North Korea
American tensions with North Korea intensified rapidly since President Donald Trump was inaugurated in late January, as leader Kim Jong Un made no secret that his scientists are working on a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S.
Kim Im Ryong, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, bluntly warned that the Trump administration’s tough talk was creating “a dangerous situation in which thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.”
The situation has become so dire that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked China — Pyongyang’s neighbor and most powerful ally — to “use their influence to convince or compel North Korea to rethink its strategic calculus.”
Tensions escalated in June when Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American student, died days after being released from a North Korean prison in an unconscious state.
The regime’s actions has led Trump and his administration to ratchet up the rhetoric, with the president in August promising “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea continues to threaten the U.S. Trump also disparaged the North Korean leader as a “rocket man” during his first address to the United Nations.
Unfortunately, Trump has shown an immature “School yard bully” type of personality, and his tactics move us ever closer to what all experts predict would be a devastatingly brutal, bloody, and costly war.
The #MeToo Movement
In early October, back-to-back bombshell reports in The New York Times and The New Yorker revealed that film mogul Harvey Weinstein allegedly lured women into hotel rooms and bars, and sexually harassed or assaulted them in what some have described as an open secret known for years in Hollywood.
Later that month, after a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano, who was one of Weinstein’s accusers, social media was inundated with personal stories of being the victims of sexual harassment or assault, all using the hashtag #MeToo.
Weinstein’s downfall has seemingly emboldened others to come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against prominent men. In recent months alone, at least 30 powerful men in entertainment, business, politics and the news media have been publicly condemned for their alleged sexual misconduct and many have lost their jobs as a result, including Weinstein.
“The Silence Breakers” of the #MeToo movement, who gave a voice to sexual assault and harassment survivors, have since been named Time magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year.
The Massacres Continue
On Oct. 1, a lone gunman unleashed a rapid-fire barrage of bullets down on a crowd of concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, killing 59 people and injuring more than 500 others. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
The shooter — 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada — acted alone, police said. Investigators found 23 firearms in his room at the Mandalay Bay, and 19 more at his home. He was found after killing himself with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
On Nov. 5, an armor-clad shooter entered a church in rural Texas and opened fire, killing 26 parishioners and injuring at least 19 others.
The gunman, Devin Kelley, fired the first shots outside of the church before unleashing more bullets inside the church. His victims’ ages ranged from 5 to 72 years old, police said. Kelley was later found dead inside his vehicle after a Good Samaritan stepped in.
The bigger story is that congress and the president will not act to take steps to reduce gun violence. One has to wonder, “How many more people must die before America’s antiquated gun laws are changed?” But the disheartening answer is, there is no number. The killing will simply continue.
The Opioid Epidemic
In August, President Trump declared America’s opioid epidemic a national emergency two days after vowing the U.S. would “win” the fight against it.
About a month earlier, the Department of Justice charged more than 400 people who officials said were preying on addicts to shell out money for unnecessary treatments that only worsened their condition, and doctors who were allegedly prescribing unnecessary opioids.
The White House Council of Economic Advisers recently reported that the epidemic’s true cost in 2015 was $504 billion — more than six times the most recent estimate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in late October that illegal, lab-made fentanyl contributed to the death of at least half of fatal opioid overdoses in 2016, underscoring how deadly the epidemic has become in recent years.
However, in state’s with legal cannabis, like Colorado, opioid addictions and deaths have gone down. It has been proven that cannabis does not lead to opioids. In fact, it is a pathway off the dangerous narcotics.
Despite the vast amount of studies supporting that legal cannabis helps move addicts off dangerous opioids, attorney general Jeff Sessions falsely continues to propagate the falsehood that cannabis leads to opioid addiction, and vows to fight marijuana – even in states with highly regulated, effective and safe markets.
The Devastating Hurricane Season
A hurricane season unlike any other came to a close in December after causing billions of dollars in damages, devastating those who were impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria when they plowed through southeast Texas, Florida and the Caribbean.
Harvey, a Category 3 storm, drenched southeast Texas in late August with 1 million gallons of water per person in the region, according to The Associated Press. The storm caused historic flooding in Houston, where some downtown areas were knee-deep in water and portions of highways were shut down with 10 feet of water.
Less than two weeks later, Hurricane Irma ravaged Florida, devastating the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm before weakening. The storm also lead to the deaths of 12 patients at a Hollywood, Florida, nursing home. Those fatalities have since been ruled a homicide, officials said.
And at the end of September, the Category 4 Hurricane Maria, the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in almost a century, steamrolled through the island, annihilating homes, knocking out the entire power grid and leaving many without electricity for months.
Maria’s aftermath also raised concerns about the relationship between Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the small Montana energy firm that was helping Puerto Rico to rebuild its power grid, Whitefish Energy Holdings.
The island canceled its $300 million contract with the company in October after The Washington Post reported, among other things, that the company only had only two full-time employees when the storm made landfall.
President Trump said that the problems in Puerto Rico were because the local Puerto Rican residents weren’t doing enough to help themselves. He also said that the devastation in Puerto Rico wasn’t a “real catastrophe” like hurricane Katrina.
Trump also stated that the emergency aid was costing too much. “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you are throwing our budget out of whack,” Trump said, just months before giving himself and his billionaire friends a record shattering tax cut.
The Wars Between Ideologies
Since President Trump took office, the partisan division that evidenced on the campaign trail translated into national culture wars, including debates over the merits of removing statues and building names that honor Confederate soldiers, as well as kneeling at football games to protest racial inequality.
On Aug. 12, white nationalists gathered in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, before a rally organized by a group known as “Unite the Right.” The rally’s purpose was to protest the removal of a statue honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Later that day, a 32-year-old woman was killed and more than 19 others were injured after a car rammed into a group of counter-protesters who were demonstrating against the alt-right.
Trump was criticized by the public and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for not fully condemning the protests’ white nationalist elements, which included appearances by former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke and white nationalist leader Richard Spencer. “There are good people on both sides,” he said.
In early October, Vice President Mike Pence attended a San Francisco 49ers game in Indianapolis only to walk out after some of the team’s players knelt during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
After the fallout, Trump said days later that the NFL should have suspended former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was the first to “take a knee” during the National Anthem to protest racial injustice in the U.S.
With conservatives in power, America is returning to its racist roots. Perhaps that is what they meant all along when they said, “Let’s make America great again.”