California Forum

All the ways 2017 made America ‘great’ again

Chanting “White lives matter!”You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” several hundred protesters carrying torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Va.
Chanting “White lives matter!”You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” several hundred protesters carrying torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Va. For The Washington Post

I’m sitting in my office considering the pros and the cons of 2017. It’s really not a contest: This was a befouling, grubby, shameful year. The sort of year that leaves an overwhelmingly sour taste, that makes one feel dirty simply for having experienced it.

Sure, there were some good things. As a tennis fanatic, for example, I find Roger Federer’s renaissance dizzying in its brilliance. And the solar eclipse was quite something to behold.


But the bad things are in a league of their own.

2017, this monstrous year, is the year that the president, the most powerful man on earth, called marauding Nazis and Klansmen in Charlottesville “very fine people,” while urging his attorney general to investigate groups like Black Lives Matter as potential terrorists.

2017 is the year the president urged violence against the media, and a Montana man who beat up a journalist whose questions he didn’t like got elected to Congress the next day.

2017 is the year that the administration turned the full might of the federal government toward hunting and humiliating and breaking apart the families of immigrants. 2017 is the year the president retweeted virulent anti-Islamic messages from a British fascist organization.

2017 is the year that saw the worst mass shooting in American history – carried out by a white Christian, whom the president was quick to call mentally ill, and whose actions didn’t convince the president of the need even for minimal gun control legislation; and a smaller scale attack by an Islamist in New York whom the president was quick to call an animal, and whose actions showed, he said, why we needed to further restrict immigration.

2017, a year of rolling weather-related calamities, is the year that America became an international environmental pariah by pulling out of the Paris climate accord; and the year it furthered its newly minted snarling reputation by, just last week, using the United Nations as a platform to bludgeon and intimidate and threaten nations whose diplomats disagreed with Donald Trump’s inflammatory, reckless decision to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

2017 is the year that two narcissistic megalomaniacs, one in Pyongyang, the other in Washington, D.C., hurled bloodcurdling nuclear threats at each other, and talked about unleashing apocalyptic “fire and fury.”

2017 began with the GOP trying to restrict poor people’s access to health care, and ended with Congress passing a tax bill that will channel hundreds of billions of dollars to vastly wealthy individuals and corporations at the expense of middle-class residents of New York, California and other blue states; and at the expense of an already desperately frayed social safety net and the tens of millions of impoverished Americans who depend on food assistance, state-funded medical care, college subsidies and so on to get by on a daily basis. All, now, on the chopping block as billionaires go wild.

2017 is the year the president race-baited African American athletes who knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality; and it is the year that same president encouraged the police to “not be too nice” against criminal suspects.

2017 is the year that federal prosecutors attempted to put dozens of young men and women, who protested in D.C. during Trump’s inauguration, in prison for up to 75 years; and it is the year that Trump and his team of sycophants lavished praise on autocratic regimes such as that of Saudi Arabia, for hosting events devoid both of protestors and of independent journalists, while repeatedly insulting democratically elected governments such as those in Germany and France.

It is also the year that I opened a “hate mail” folder for the myriad poisonous, threatening, harassing emails sent my own way by trolls. People who felt empowered by the vicious moment to hurl juvenile, middle-school-playground-style slurs my way, or who wished, sometimes in graphic terms, for violence to befall me and my family, all because they disagreed with my political viewpoint.

What a miserable year, of unbridled nastiness trickling down through the culture from on high. Be gone 2017. And may this wondrous country find a way next year to somehow recover its soul.

Sasha Abramsky is a Sacramento writer who teaches at UC Davis. His latest book is “Jumping at Shadows: The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream.” He can be reached at