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The UK and US 2017: A very brief review

So here we are, finally, at the end of 2017. What a year it has been socially, politically and culturally.

The UK

In the UK, the sh*t show commonly known as Brexit has - unsurprisingly - lurched along in fits and starts. It has truly been embarrassing to watch the incompetence in Tory Party leadership (that sort of second-hand embarrassment) and even more shocking to see how woefully unprepared the government is for the massive task of separating the UK from the European Union.

Prime Minister Theresa May continues to put on a brave face despite a damning election vote which saw her just about scrape to victory while losing her majority in the process. It remains to be seen whether or not she will still be Prime Minster come the actual leaving date.

I'm sure that Ms May (originally a Remainer) has, by now, realized that she has taken on a gargantuan, impractical and perhaps even impossible task; I would actually respect her a great deal more if she admitted to the public that, despite her efforts, she isn't sure that Brexit is even feasible. She won't though. Because, politics.

It becomes more and more apparent as each day passes that a successful Brexit - that is, one which does not cause significant damage to the UK - is going to be incredibly difficult. Those of us who voted to stay in the EU could have (and, indeed, did) told you this, but it seems that who firmly believe that the UK must leave the EU will simply have to learn from the pain that comes with trying to do so. Unfortunately, the rest of us will be forced to deal with that pain along with them. Democracy, eh?!

London has had a hard year, dealing with a number of terrorist attacks (although, of course, we cannot forget the awful bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester) as well as the tragic Grenfell Tower fire. Grenfell was a stark symbol of the growing inequality in London at the moment, and I really, really hope that those responsible are held to account and that justice is served. May all those who have lost their lives this year rest in peace.

The US

2017 has been quite a year in American politics. We have witnessed a new president whose only mandate seems to be to act as some kind of psychological terrorist: causing daily alarm and bringing real (see: the travel ban, attempts to repeal Obamacare, the new tax bill) and potential disaster (see: North Korea, and that tax bill) upon the American people. It's hard to believe that there's still another 3 and a bit years to go of this presidency. Lord help us all.

On the upside, Trump's incompetence, general lack of manners and presidential qualities, have led to a huge upsurge in general political awareness and consciousness. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't have an opinion (usually a strong one) on this president and, for better or worse, that's a good thing.

Americans are also getting educated (and educating themselves) on a daily basis about the inner workings of the country's politics. According to Google, some of this year's most googled topics were DACA, antifa, net neutrality, and the Paris Climate Agreement.

It has been heartening to see the legislative branch of the system in action, showing itself to be strong, robust and adverse to Trump's cynical playbook. Tyranny can only really work when there are no bodies which act independently of the will of the president (look at what's going on in Poland right now). Thankfully, in this case, the legal branch is doing its work properly and effectively. I'm grateful for bodies like the ACLU which has done such good work this year.

Hillary Clinton might not be the president, but the women of America have been showing themselves strong this year. Life works in funny ways at times: Clinton's defeat may have done more to empower women than it might have done had she actually won. No doubt, an increase in women's activism will be one of the key aspects of American life over the next few years. It's beyond time to get the creeps, chauvinists and misogynists out of positions of power (Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. and chums) and to set a new social norm that violence and discrimination against women in any form is absolutely unacceptable. Good riddance to the lot of them.

Trump has been a crappy president, which is sadly what I expected. If he was working in the private sector as a CEO, he would definitely have been fired by now. In times of crisis (Charlottesville, for example), he has been weak, pandering to the lowest instincts of his so-called based by doubling down on racist sentiment rather than denouncing hatred and division - which actually would have given him a lot more respect even from those who don't like him.

He has continually attacked the free press as 'fake news' and suggested that people should attack journalists. He deflects, lies, exaggerates, distorts, uses propaganda (including from far-right/neo-Nazi groups), eschews common sense and scientific knowledge on some of the world's most important issues (such as climate change), panders to the lowest-common denominator, provokes, bullies, offends and generally sh*t talks all for his own ego and self-aggrandizement.

Most egregiously, he shows no respect for people even in life-and-death situations - he even had to pick a fight with Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan, during Hurricane Maria after she appealed for help to stop people from dying; after the attack in London, the first thing he did was criticize Sadiq Khan, London's (first Muslim) mayor, using the attack to promote his own anti-Muslim bias; after the young woman was killed in Charlottesville, he said that neo-Nazi's were "fine" people. Disgraceful.

It's desperately disheartening, shameful and sad to watch such low standards at work at the highest level of political office not only in the country, but arguably in the world. I've never, in my lifetime, seen a president who is so wilfully ignorant, who has such a poor grasp on the very basics of his own job, and who, worse, isn't even remotely interested in trying to learn. Let's hope that no future politician is taking notes from this guy.

Thanks to: African-Americans (women in particular) showing themselves strong at local elections (Alabama, Virginia); the late night talk show hosts and comedians providing us with incisive commentary and much needed comedic relief at the same time; the brilliant journalists who are speaking truth to power despite the attacks on the profession; and really everyone else trying to keep us all sane. We need it, and we appreciate it.