The 2016 blooper reel

What is the worst thing that happened in 2016?

By Sarah Sidlow

Late November, Merriam-Webster sent out a distress signal on Twitter: “‘Fascism’ is still our #1 lookup. # of lookups = how we choose our Word of the Year. There’s still time to look something else up.” Yes, that emphasis is theirs.

And the people, apparently, answered. With 2016 now officially closed, the Merriam-Webster word of the year is “surreal.”

The word rounds out a collection of “Words of the Year” that include “paranoid” from Cambridge Dictionary, “post-truth” from the Oxford Dictionaries, and “xenophobia” from Dictionary.com.

Oh, and don’t forget the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which just declared “whatever” the most annoying word of the year, for the eighth year running.

And that pretty much sums it up. It’s been a bang-up year on the planet Earth, and for any of you extraterrestrials watching at home. Let’s take a quick breath, and then recap.

Here in our local bubble, the city of Dayton passed Issue 9, raising the income rate for the first time in 32 years (which some argue was a positive measure, but who really likes taxes, anyway?). Ohio Senator Rob Portman tried to address Ohio’s growing heroin epidemic. And Oakwood resident Brock Turner served just three months in jail after being convicted for three felony charges of criminal sexual assault (the judge who handed down the sentence was also recently cleared of misconduct).

Around the country, neighbors locked horns in political lawn sign battles—ultimately resulting in businessman and celebrity Donald Trump being elected president of the United States. This prompted a lot of people to learn a lot more about the Electoral College, to read up on Trump’s cabinet picks (Kellyanne Conway, Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, Scott Pruitt), and wonder what’s in store for the empty seat on the Supreme Court bench—among a whole lot of other question marks.

Dylann Roof represented himself in court with no defense and was sentenced to death and beat in prison by another inmate after killing nine members of a Charleston, North Carolina, Baptist Bible study. The largest U.S. mass shooting in history also took place this year in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Not to mention the Ray Tensing/Samuel DuBose mistrial and more recent incident at Ohio State University (OSU) involving a knife attacker, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who was misreported as a gunman before being shot and killed by an OSU officer.

And San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protested police violence by kneeling before NFL games.

Lots of people heard a lot about Aleppo, Syria (holding aside former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who probably should have already heard of it before appearing on national television). And around the world, terrorist attacks in Nice, Brussels, Berlin, and Turkey have made it clear that we still has some very big, complicated problems to face after the ball drops.

Then, there was Brexit, in which 52 percent of voters in the U.K. voted to leave the European Union—the long-term effects of which are still TBD. As is many Britons’ sense of what the European Union even is, according to trending Google searches after the decision was made.

And as much as we’ve tried, we can’t forget that when David Bowie left the terrestrial realm a year ago, he started hand selecting new residents to populate his new world, starting with Alan Rickman, picking up Prince, and snatching up George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds (the abridged version) from us when we thought it was finally over.

Are you still breathing?

Here’s to Auld Lang Syne, my friends, and to a prosperous 2017.

Reach Dayton City Paper forum moderator Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com


Commentary Forum Question of the Week:

What’s the worst thing that happened in 2016?

 

History repeats itself

Rampant gun violence remains unchanged in the United States

By Tim Walker

2016 has finally ended. It will be remembered, and not fondly, for many things—a year we elected a reality TV star as our President, a year in which a lot of popular celebrities left us, a year in which the NFL’s Cleveland Browns won only one game. One thing it is sure to be remembered for, however, is the rampant, out-of-control gun violence that has come to plague our nation, because we choose to ignore that fact—desensitized, we simply look the other way. We have trained ourselves to accept gun violence as normal, the so-called “price we pay for living in a free society.” Barely a week goes by that we don’t see another mass shooting on the news or hear about it on the radio or read about it on Facebook—a dozen victims down south, five or 10 out west, 20 kids up in Connecticut—and then we turn a blind eye to the horror and go on with the rest of our day. Sublime. Oblivious.

Last summer, on June 12, 2016, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, called Pulse was the scene of the single deadliest mass shooting committed by a single gunman in U.S. history, and the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since the World Trade. Forty-nine people were killed and 53 were injured in the attack, many of them members of Orlando’s Latino and LGBT communities. Twenty-nine-year-old shooter Omar Mateen, who called 911 and pledged his allegiance to ISIS before the attack, was eventually shot and killed in the club by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff.

It doesn’t matter, the NRA says. We are guaranteed our Second Amendment rights by the Constitution of the United States. Bang.

On July 7, 2016, Micah Xavier Johnson fired upon a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas, killing five officers and injuring nine others. Two civilians were also wounded. Johnson was an Army Reserve Afghan War veteran, reportedly angry over police shootings of unarmed black men, and stated that he wanted to kill white people, especially white police officers. The suspect was killed that night with a bomb attached to a remote control bomb disposal robot.

Guns don’t kill people; people kill people, the gun lobby declares. Bang.

Closer to home, here in Montgomery County, 10 shootings and eight homicides occurred within just two weeks during a string of gun violence in August. Of the eight homicides in the county for the month of August 2016, five happened within the city limits of Dayton.

Bang.

The horrifying images from dozens of mass shootings have become routine through endless repetition… frightened individuals running and hiding, tears, screams, the smoke… the bodies crumpled on the floor…police in body armor. Make no mistake, this country has a problem with its guns. I am not here to advocate for the disarming of our population, not by a long shot—I am a gun owner myself, and though I am not a member of the National Rifle Association, I do believe in our right to bear arms.

But the statistics are sobering indeed. The United States experiences gun violence on a level so far beyond the rest of the developed world, it boggles the mind. Of all the murders in the U.S. in 2012, 60 percent were by firearms, compared with 3 percent in Canada, 18.2 percent in Australia, and 10 percent in the U.K. The number of gun murders per capita in the U.S. in 2012 was nearly 30 times the rate in the United Kingdom, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with 0.1.

No one is sure exactly how many guns even exist in the U.S. The best estimates suggest a third of the population possesses at least one, and there are a total of about 300 million guns in private hands. That’s nearly enough for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. to have their own weapon. And what or who is responsible for the endless mass shootings? Could it be an epidemic of mental illness and the inability for people to find affordable mental health services? Do the math: a surplus of available guns + a lack of effective and affordable mental health care services = a level of bloodshed in this country that is unseen anywhere else on Earth.

On Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 (two days ago, as I write these words), in the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, 26-year-old veteran Esteban Santiago shot and killed five people and wounded six others before he was taken into custody. It was later reported that he flew from Alaska to Florida with a gun in his checked baggage, and upon landing retrieved the firearm and opened fire on the innocent people standing there.

As of this morning, no motive has been discovered. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Happy New Year, America.

Bang.

Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys
pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach him at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

 

Nobody wants to be second

By Ben Tomkins

There are many things I could point to from 2016 that could have gone better, but the human species was the only thing on the planet that seemed bound and determined to do the worst they possibly could. Of that subset of God’s creation, the most reprehensible of the lot was—by far—people who have every reason to be happy with the life they are blessed with.

The middle class can be just awful when it comes to being unappreciative of its privileged existence and even worse about taking it out on everyone and everything else. Middle class folks aren’t exactly poor, so they can’t claim they are inhumanely being denied the basics like a roof over their head and food on the table. On the other hand, they aren’t exactly rich and, in a consumerist country like America, that means forever experiencing the frustration of not getting things they want.

These two things put them in a constant state of infantile rage. Intellectually, they know they are living some of the best lives anyone has ever lived, since a hairy chimp put a particularly smooth and shiny rock in its belly button and said “mine,” but emotionally, it feels like they are somehow getting the shaft in all of this nonsense we call “civilization.”

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and he is going to bitch about everyone else eating fish when he’s getting up at 6 a.m. to pay Verizon for an enhanced data plan.

And man, was 2016 the year that the middle class unloaded the emotional baggage all over the communal living space.

It started with deciding things that are facts must not be facts because they are irritating. For instance, poor minorities had a good point about not wanting to be disproportionately targeted by civil authority. That was extremely irritating to the middle class because it meant the middle class had to step out of it bubble of self-absorbed pity over the unjustly high price of an Xbox and focus on other people for a minute.

The result was horrifying. Middle class Americans went to hitherto inconceivable lengths to convince themselves that poor minorities were somehow at fault. The abused lower classes were painted as entitled criminals, subject to racist propaganda campaigns, physically beaten and threatened with being rounded up and deported. As with everything involving race, this kind of talk quickly spilled over the social sea walls of socio-economics and began flooding more general categories like religion. People of Middle Eastern lineage were targeted en masse, under the guise of posing an ideological danger to the great American “us”—whatever that means.

The election cycle created a perfect storm of irrational middle class temper tantrums, featuring elements such as white people deciding that, if they can just scream one good N-word out of their brain and into the world, the reduced internal pressure might be enough to make everything else OK. However, the middle classes didn’t even have the courage to be honest with themselves. They found a megaphone who would do it for them, so they wouldn’t be on the evening news; and he was so good at it they made him president.

Donald Trump ticked all the boxes. In short, his sales pitch was that all the cognitive dissonance the middle classes had been choking on could be alleviated by simply blaming everything else in the universe, whether or not it was “sensical.” In essence, “wanting something made it so.” The First World electronic devices of the middle classes lit up like Christmas trees, illuminating their gleeful faces with the cathartic light of self-importance. Climate change is a hoax. The environment is our economic enemy; politicians are evil; the media is biased; minorities cause all our problems, Islam is a curse; nobody should have to pay taxes; and all you have to do to be right is put out a passive-aggressive tweet. That’s the short list, but it’s enough to get the point across. The middle classes feasted like a rampant mass of teeming maggots on the carcass of common decency, and belched out all the noxious fumes of irrationality they had been trying to digest in the name of being morally and intellectually honest.

Many might say that 2016 was a year of triumph for the worst in us, but really, it’s just a staging year. What’s terrifying is what might happen when the machine is actually switched on and it starts knocking over dominoes. My best hope is that people got it all out of their system, and much like waking up after a bender, the clarity of a headache and morning sunlight will be enough to decide we can’t keep doing this to ourselves.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at BenTomkins@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

Levitt Pavilion, aka Nan’s Folly

By Gary Leitzell

‘Folly’

• the lack of good sense or judgment
• a foolish act or idea
• foolish behavior
• a very unusual or fancy building that was built in a garden designed for decoration or amusement in the past

This is pure speculation on my behalf, but I suspect that someone in the community was visiting a city that already has one of the Levitt Foundation Pavilions and thought that this would be great for Dayton. So, he inquired about how to go about establishing one here; had the means to create a 501(c)3 nonprofit; knew a few folks at Care Source, Premier Health, Fifth Third, and Key Ads who could donate some funds. Then he put a lawyer and some prestigious local people on a board and went off to visit the mayor, who gets sold on the idea because it will be the first concrete thing she can attach her name to in almost three years.

On the pavilion website, Mayor Nan Whaley is quoted as saying, “Enhancing Downtown Dayton with the Levitt Pavilion is extremely exciting. The Levitt’s mission couldn’t be a better fit for Dave Hall Plaza and the Greater Downtown Dayton Area.” Some would disagree.

Now, I am not opposed to a Levitt Pavilion—if the community comes together and supports it. If private donations and funding can provide for the facility to be built and administered entirely, then the city has a responsibility to provide maintenance. I do, however, strongly oppose the city of Dayton allocating $1 million up front to fund the project and to pay $460,000 for a design architect from Cleveland to develop a plan for the facility to accommodate 5,000 spectators. We should be supporting local businesses, after all. I think the powers-that-be honestly believe that this pavilion will attract developers to fill vacant office space downtown with luxury apartments and condos. But they are speculating with tax money; there is no guarantee of a return on the investment. But hey, it’s not their money they are playing with. It is yours. And there’s even more at stake.

Let’s talk about Dave Hall Plaza. Established in 1974, it is the only park downtown with landscaping, and with it a host of mature trees. It has ambiance and unique features that will all be removed if a pavilion is to be built. Forty years of memories will be wiped off the face of the earth. The park photo used on the Levitt Pavilion website for Dayton (LevittDayton.org) shows a cropped aerial view from a Dayton Daily News photo of the terraces and trees taken in winter on a rainy day. Not the best view of the park. The website also shows a new razzle dazzle stage in place of the water feature and the landscaping. All the trees are gone, too. Would it be better to sink $5 million into Memorial Hall? Now, there is a magnificent facility going to waste. What about the location? Would it not be better to locate a stage across the river from Riverscape and play to 50,000 people sitting on the riverbank? I doubt anyone ever thought of that concept.

The Levitt Pavilion must offer 50 free concerts a year. If you look at other cities with these pavilions, they hold concerts almost every night in June, July, August, and September, then almost nothing in between. They also support paying concerts; this will have the unintended consequence of pulling away attendance at the free concerts at Riverscape on summer evenings, already supported with your tax dollars. Don’t be fooled. Five Rivers MetroParks intends to put another levy on the ballot soon. They need $36 million for improvements and to purchase even more land to remove from the tax rolls. They will also need money if they are to compete with the Levitt Pavilion. There will have to be paying concerts if the pavilion is to raise adequate funds to support the maintenance beyond the first year.

Then, of course, there will have to be adequate marketing and advertising to attract people to Dayton after hours, not to mention an increase in the cost to the Downtown Dayton Partnership ambassadors who clean the streets. This will cause an increase in the Special Improvement District (SID) tax on business owners in the future. Nothing is ever totally free. Someone, somewhere is paying for it. That will be you and your tax dollars in the future. City leaders need $4 million next year in “Preschool Promise” money. In eight years, when that hasn’t worked the way they planned, they will ask to make the tax permanent to allocate funds to support this pavilion otherwise it will become Nan’s Folly.

Gary Leitzell is former mayor of Dayton. Reach him at GaryLeitzell@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

A nation of laws and not of me

By David H. Landon

The year 2016 provided us with many contenders for the “worst thing to happen in 2016.” With numerous attacks by radical Islamists, including the horrific attack of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the scene of the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, 2016 was a bloody and dangerous year. Another contender for the worst thing in 2016 would have to be the total destruction of Aleppo, where an estimated 400,000 deaths have occurred as the city found itself in the cross hairs of the Syrian Civil War. Certainly another shameful 2016 event that’s in contention is the attack by a 22-year-old white supremacist who killed nine African-American worshipers during a Bible study at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. I could go on discussing the death and destruction that occurred during 2016.

But I believe that we are facing another challenge brought to us during 2016—the end of the rule of law in this country. If this trend continues, the country we know and love will cease to be.

America is more than a place. She is a collection of ideas. One idea is that man is endowed by his Creator with certain unalienable rights. Another guiding principle, quoting John Adams, is that America is “a nation of laws and not of men.”  The year 2016 has put that notion to a challenge, as we witnessed when the FBI Director James Comey gave his July 5 press conference in which he laid out the case against Hilary Clinton for her violation of the Espionage Act. Clinton specifically violated Section 793, subsection (f), which lists, “Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information” among those crimes for which the perpetrator “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned, not more than ten years, or both.”

After carefully laying out the case, chapter and verse, for her violation of law, for her decision to use a private email server on which classified information was transmitted, the Director of the FBI came to the miraculous conclusion that, while she was grossly negligent, she didn’t intend to break the law. That rumbling sound coming from underground in Quincy, Massachusetts, is John Adams spinning in his grave. Evidently, we are a nation of laws with the exception of the Clintons, and perhaps a few other elites.

During his statement and later during his testimony before Congress, Director Comey said that 110 of Clinton’s emails were classified at the time they were sent. And according to the Washington Times in February, another 80 were either marked “secret” or “confidential” and were of such sensitive nature that national security could have been jeopardized had the emails been hacked and subsequently sold or leaked.

The overwhelming evidence is that her emails were hacked on a number of occasions. As bad as that is, even worse is that she failed to report the hacking upon discovering the attempts on her server. That failure jeopardized every American as it exposed State secrets. She then spent months covering up the intrusion and lying about her email server. She knew she was in trouble. Her claim that the contents of the emails were mundane topics such as yoga and Chelsie’s wedding was an attempt to hide the truth.  And what was the truth? Hilary Clinton violated federal law, and the FBI—based on her high profile—gave her a pass.

Congressman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the House Benghazi Committee, through a series of questions directed at Comey, during testimony by Comey before Congress, itemized the lies and obfuscation Clinton had committed over the course of the investigation.

Clinton lied about having not received or sent classified information through her private email account. She lied about having not sent or received anything marked “classified.” She lied about having sent classified documents from her unsecured email account. She lied about using only one device for her email (Comey said she used multiple devices). She lied about “all work-related emails” being returned to the State Department (Comey said they discovered “thousands that were not returned”). She lied about neither her nor anyone from her office deleting work-related emails. She lied about her lawyers “reading every one of the emails” and their work being “overly inclusive.”

And yet, with knowledge of Clinton’s lack of candor regarding every aspect the email scandal, he found no “intent” to break the law. Add to this set of facts the unbelievable secret meeting between former President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, just days before Comey’s press conference clearing Clinton. It all stinks to high heaven.

Not so long ago, Gen. David Petraeus did far less that Secretary Clinton; and yet, the FBI brought him up on felony charges for not safeguarding classified information. We like General Petraeus, but he broke the law and needed to be treated like any other citizen—and he was. Over the past few years, the DoJ successfully prosecuted other government officials for having classified information on personal electronic device. Being a Clinton seems to give one the ultimate “Get out of Jail Free” card.

There can’t be one set of rules for certain members of our republic and another set of rules for the rest of us. This is not some minor trifle. If the public loses faith in the system, we are all lost.

David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at
DaveLandon@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Tim Walker
Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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