With the Arrival of the New Year, Let's Remain Mindful

I believe it helpful to keep some things in perspective as we collectively transition to 2017. While it is important to treat the turning of the calendar as a fresh opportunity to improve ourselves, it is crucial that we remember there are many initiatives we need to take to improve the world around us. Following a year featuring political challenges, social unrest, and general conflict, there are some key themes I would like to touch on:

Stay tolerant, or make a better effort to be open-minded. In both the United States and across the globe, people have been looking upon one another with a greater degree of skepticism and hostility. Various religious and political groups, namely Muslims and refugees (to which there is some overlap), have become targets of fear mongering and suspicion. We need to approach those members of increasingly-marginalized groups with open hearts and steady minds. In trying times in a fragile political and social climate, it is much easier to navigate rough seas as a united collective. This rings true both nationally and internationally. While some leaders may be vocal proponents of isolationist policies, fragmenting global goals is not a pathway to global betterment. 

We need to mend fences and build bridges, not build barriers. In relation to emerging political events, and especially highly-contested election cycles, outcomes can be bitter pills for the losing side to swallow. Keeping this in mind, it is crucial to remember history to guard against detrimental repetition. In many countries and cases, political transitions of power have been marred by conflict and infighting. These outcomes have caused tears in the social and political fabrics of their respective nations. Instead of viewing those with differing opinions as "political enemies," we must instead reach out to our fellow citizens as partners - especially within our communities. To be fair, this will not be an overnight process, and it would silly to expect such. Plurality of thought is important, but not to the point where logical discussion becomes emotional sparring. While people may share political borders and physical spaces, many build up rigid mental barriers that foster division. Moving forward, it is not only beneficial to promote open discussion, but also make a concerted effort to be more receptive to external ideas. 

Although we look forward to new events, looking back reminds us there are still important problems to solve. Take a look around the world, and it is quite plain to see that issues plague many corners of the globe. These still must be addressed. Millions upon millions of people do not receive basic tools for a healthy life. In my own state, the Flint Water Crisis has brought a first-world city problems akin to the developing world. From country to country, many do not enjoy essential amenities such as clean water, adequate shelter, or proper nutrition. Access to healthcare and safety is not up to par with our not-so-lofty ambitions. The reality is that governments are failing their people every day, even if we do not hear about it. From this day forward, is important to keep pressuring governing bodies to do better. It is important to hold international organizations like the UN to adhere to their own standards. Perhaps most importantly of all, we must stop brushing things under the rug by saying, "Well, it's their problem." Injustice thrives in environments where lack of accountability and apathy intersect. 

With all of this being said, I truly look forward to seeing some positive developments as we progress throughout the year. In a world often defined by "us versus them," it is crucial that we turn the tables and become advocates for one another. Numerically, 2017 may be an odd year, but it is time to even the playing field further. Everyone will be better off if we attempt to cooperate sincerely. Accordingly, do not be afraid to take a stand against intolerance. As Bertrand Russell said, "The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation." I think we can all appreciate how appropriate those words are today.