One way to assess the year just past is to see how it looked when its sun was still under the horizon. The last posts of 2015—one of which was “Slouching Toward 2016”—suggested that ‘16 might turn out to be a mess as seen from late December ‘15. Among the events noted in ‘15 was the “victory” of Ramadi in Iraq. Now Ramadi is 79 miles west of Baghdad; the infamous Fallujah is halfway in between. Fallujah was then still held by ISIS (and as of December 11 of this year, bombings were still reported as ISIS remnants were being swept up.) Ramadi was “taken,” but what did the Iraqi army capture? Rubble. That was then, a year ago. 2016 turned out to be a year of such victories in Syria and elsewhere. Weeks of bombing; rubble turned into smaller rubble; and a stream of refugees coming out at last as if, when you squeeze rubble hard enough, a bit of darkly-colored life flows out like near-congealed blood. Today, as I gaze at 2017 ahead, the battle of Ramadi has moved on to Mosul. That battle has been going on for a long time but still isn’t over. It takes time to make once populous cities entirely unlivable. 2017 will doubtlessly unveil the “victory” of Mosul too. But that word will be quite meaningless.
My 2015 farewell posts failed to note that 2016 would be an election year. Had that occurred to me, I’d have avoided the word “slouching” and written about about “digging a deep hole.” Election years are like that in this seemingly endless cultural sunset. Well, 2017 is not an election year. So we approach it with faint hope. Or is the future preparing even more amazingly rude surprises? Just wondering.