By: Sarina D. (’19)
2017 was an exceptionally eventful year- from political chaos on the international stage and at home, to new cultural movements and trends, to natural disasters and natural phenomenons- newscasters never saw a dull day while Americans purposefully tapped into social media and the news like never before. As we kick off a new year of new goals, trends, and hopes, it is important to look back at the events which defined and dominated the past year. So, in no particular order, here are ten of the most significant events of 2017.
1. The Solar Eclipse
In addition to bringing Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” back onto the radio, the solar eclipse was a natural phenomenon that caused people all over North America and even Asia, Africa and Europe to stop what they were doing and wait outside while wearing special glasses. Taking place on Monday, August 21st, 2017, the eclipse not only served as a trending topic on various social media platforms for weeks leading up to the event, but even had instrumental economic effects. In fact, the solar eclipse cost employers over $700 million dollars in worker productivity because so many employees either skipped work or remained outside during the day to see the moon covering the sun. And don’t forget those solar eclipse glasses! While initially costing about $3.50, the price of these glasses skyrocketed in the days before the eclipse, costing some consumers $20, $50, or even $100 dollars because of the alleged necessity of these glasses for safety while looking at the eclipse. The eclipse generated thousands of news stories, was posted about millions of times on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and yielded concrete economic fluctuations, securing it a spot in the 2017 Top Ten.
2. An Unprecedented Hurricane Season
Just days after nature gave us the wonder that was the eclipse, three deathly hurricanes struck the Western Hemisphere, yielding one of the deadliest and by far the most expensive hurricane season on record. On August 25th, 2017, Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 Storm, hit Texas, causing $180 billion dollars in damage, destroying 12,700 homes, and killing about 100 people. The devastation caused by Harvey seemed impossible to surmount-that was until Hurricane Irma hit Florida and surrounding states as well as the Caribbean less than two weeks later. Irma started in Florida as a Category 4 storm on the morning of September 10th, ripping off roofs, flooding cities, and knocking out power for more than 6.8 million people.And last, but certainly not least, Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico on September 20th as a Category 4 storm, leaving the island without power, food, water, or supplies for several days on end. As we head into 2018, Puerto Rico is still repairing the infrastructure damage engendered by Maria and working to attain the necessary resources to rejuvenate the spirits of its citizens. All in all, 2017 reminded us of the unpredictable and dangerous nature of the world we inhabit, and the strong support provided by the global community when tragedy strikes one area of the world. In addition to insurmountable devastation and loss, a sense of solidarity for victims came out of the catastrophe- one that transcended national, political, and racial lines.
3. A Swing to the Right; Nationalism in the Western World
2017 kicked off with the inauguration of United States President Donald Trump, who vowed to follow an America first policy throughout his presidency. To do so, he promised economic nationalization through implementing tariffs and bringing jobs back to limit trade globalization and political and social nationalization through cracking down on illegal immigrants and instituting a Muslim ban. Then, in June, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and elected right-wing politician Theresa May as their prime minister. May and supporters justified Brexit as the necessary step to prioritize British citizens over foreigners who can travel freely to the UK as a result of the EU and refugees from the Middle East. European elections, despite not always resulting in a victory for the right, overall revealed the rise of a rejuvenated nationalistic sentiment-one that represents a departure from the progressivist linear trend of the past decade. From Trump, to May, to the rise of Marine Le Pen, France’s National Front Candidate(who lost France’s presidential election but engendered surprising support), 2017 was marked by the spread of nationalism.
4. The #MeToo Campaign
After multiple women came forward to accuse Hollywood magnate Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, millions of women across the globe made the hashtag #MeToo into a powerful movement to end the sexual harassment that is rampant in our society today. Hundreds of influential men in politics and film were accused and exposed. Byproducts included Alabama voting blue in the senate race for the first time since 1992 in disdain for Republican senate hopeful and known pedophile Roy Moore. Overall, 2017 was a breakthrough year in regards to challenging traditional power structures/figures and institutionalized prejudice in our society thanks to the courage of every sexual assault victim and the influence of social media.
Read our article about the movement here: https://csusgryphongazette.com/2017/12/04/metoo-the-impact-the-reality/
5. The Israel-Palestine Conflict
This year was characterized by developments in the politically charged conflict over the land both Palestinians and Israelis claim as their own. From violence between the Palestinian Authority and occupying Israeli troops to social conflict between the ethnic and religious groups, each month of 2017 brought new challenges to civilians of the territory, the UN, and the international community as a whole. Conflict over Jerusalem is at all time high as well, as the city straddles the border between Israel and the West Bank and houses the holiest sites of both Judaism and Islam. Most recently, US President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing seven decades of American foreign policy and enacting a plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City.
6. The Ongoing Russian Investigation
It wouldn’t be a 2017 day without CNN posting an update on the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 US presidential election. And it wouldn’t be a week in 2017 without a cabinet change in the Trump administration tied to an illegal Russian connection. Notable events include the firing of National Security advisor Michael Flynn, FBI director James Comey, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who were all terminated for either meeting with Russian officials or disobeying President Trump.
7. ISIS Attacks
This year was also characterized by the aftermath of devastating terrorist attacks throughout Europe and the United States and the following efforts to ameliorate national security. From the Manchester attack, which targeted little girls at an Ariana Grande concert, to suicide bombings in Belgium, to the tragedy of the Orlando shooting at a gay bar, western countries have been forced to acknowledge and address head on the immensely powerful and controlling ideology of the Islamic state. In addition, 2017 saw an increase in terrorism not only by foreigners, but by citizens of the victimized nations affiliated with ISIS as well. For example, 26-year-old Modesto truck driver Everitt Aaron Jameson planned a Christmas day suicide attack on San Francisco’s Pier 39 after being inspired by the ISIS ideology and repulsed by American behavior in the Middle East after serving time there as an American Marine.
8. Amazon Takes Over Every Part of Your Life
The past decade has been dominated by technological development, and this year was no exception. Leading the tech world this year was Amazon, the largest internet retailer in the world and now a producer of consumer electronic products. This year, 300 million people worldwide shopped online on Amazon or bought a new product every week. For the past few years or so, Amazon’s regular customers and now 80 million Prime members have purchased their books, clothes, household appliances, music, kindles, tablets and even groceries from Amazon. And now in 2017, with the rampant sales of the Amazon Echo product, Amazon truly dominates every aspect of their users’ lives. The Echo, who is named Alexa, has highly advanced conservations with users, who can utilize the product to surf the internet, set timers or alarms, request Uber rides, make calendar appointments, and more. Amazon is now not only on your screen and in your driveway, but in your ear and on your desk as well. It is no surprise, then, that CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos now has a net worth of 98.6 billion dollars, ending 2017 as the richest individual on the planet. As of 2017, it seems that Amazon can’t possibly get any larger, but we all know that’s not true!
9. Referendums and Independence
This year was a huge one for the Kurds, an ethnic group who, despite harnessing an established and cohesive culture and identity, were scattered in regions that straddle Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. This past year, they were finally eligible to take part in a referendum on independence from Iraq, and overwhelmingly voted “yes” in September. In a perhaps more surprising referendum Catalonia, a region in Northeast Spain, voted to become independent from Spain. Catalonia is home to 7.5 million citizens, its own devolved government, and its own language and cultural traditions. However, it is also home to Barcelona, the country’s second largest city and largest industrial producer. Despite intense opposition from the Spanish federal government, Catalonians, who feel culturally separate from the rest of Spain and believe their economy disproportionately aids the country, voted with an 80% majority to become independent.
10. Great Diversity in Film and Television
2017 started off with the Academy Award for best picture of the year going to Moonlight, a film that tells the story of a black gay kid growing up in 20th century Miami. And this surely set a precedent for the year. Film and television alike portrayed more racial minorities and LGBT characters than in previous years. When Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal came out in 2012, it was the first network television show in which a black woman served as the lead character. Now, Scandal, which stars Kerry Washington, How to Get Away with Murder, which stars Viola Davis, Jane the Virgin, which stars Gina Rodriguez, and Empire, which stars Taraji P. Henson, are all at the top of 2017s smashing successes, and all contain diverse casts with a leading woman of color. Some smaller but still instrumental victories include Kelly Ann Tran serving as the first Asian American woman in the Star Wars franchise for The Last Jedi, and news that Disney will soon release a film for its first LGBT princess. 2017 also saw breakthroughs in diversity on the other side of the camera. While 96% of Hollywood producers are men, Big Little Lies revealed that we have been missing out as a result of the lack of women in charge on set. Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, two large names in the film industry, produced and starred in the HBO show, which follows the stories of six women in affluent Monterey, California. It is undeniable that we still have a long way to go, as Hollywood still disproportionately underrepresents people of color and LGBT individuals while continuously creating stereotypical and one-dimensional female characters. However, 2017 reveals and upward trend in film and television diversity, and can be considered a year in which the industry has been forced to actually acknowledge the subtle-or rather not so subtle-prejudices it harnesses.