With the fall semester almost over here at Princeton, the year 2016 is slowly fading away. What an year it was--I mean, 2016 even has its own hashtag. We screamed when Beyonce released Lemonade and hailed Queen Cersei once again when she finally blew up King’s Landing (the Sept to be exact, of course; shout out to my fellow Game of Thrones fans). So many of us cried when the legendary and inspirational David Bowie passed away, and I know that you will Always remember Alan Rickman.
But I don’t mean to talk about cultural gossip today. Instead, I wanted to share some things that I felt deeply in my heart as a college student who lived through 2016--things that I believe are worth sharing. Thus, on a more serious note, in the year 2016, we saw one of the most controversial presidential elections (with its outcome being the least expected by many) in the United States’ history; we saw President Park of South Korea, a country that I call my home, getting impeached (still in the process, but most likely successfully for the first time in Korea’s history) after an atrocious political scandal shocked the entire nation and prompted hundreds of thousands of people to pour out into the streets as peaceful protesters; we saw and are still seeing the innocent people of Aleppo, Syria, devastated and facing death every second, while the Syrian government and the international community can’t even maintain ceasefire for a single day so that the people can evacuate.
All of these things happened simultaneously, being headlined in the daily news I follow, filling up my Facebook newsfeed, and even being brought up in not-so-casual conversations between friends. 2016 for me was a whirlwind of political news that was saddening, to say the least, and I imagine that it was similar for a lot of you, too. I always try to see the best in this world; for a while, however, it seemed like the world was not what I thought it was, not nearly as good nor as hopeful.
But I got through. We all did. My naive twenty-year-old self came out of 2016 with new things learned and insights gained, perhaps a bit more sarcastic but nevertheless still trying to see the best in this world. I’ve never been more aware of the frightening magnitude of impact that politics can have on one’s everyday life--especially on that of minorities or the less privileged. I’ve never been more knowledgeable about the process of impeachment that is articulated under Article 65 of South Korea’s Constitution, nor have I ever had so many of my closest friends at political demonstrations out in Korea’s ruthless winter weather and wished that I was there to hold their hands. I’ve never been more disheartened, realistic, yet still appreciative of the roles and limitations of the international community.
Above all, I have never felt so deeply in my heart, the immeasurable importance of being aware, awake, and able to voice my opinions for what I believe to be good. I’ve never considered myself to be politically active (I wasn’t apathetic per se), but 2016 taught me to pay more attention. On December 13th, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, asked her Syrian, Iranian, and Russian counterparts at a UN Security Council Emergency Briefing on Syria: "Are you truly incapable of shame?" That question doesn’t only apply to them, but to all of us. I realize that if I--no, if we remain unaware and silent towards controversial politics, the hardships of our friends, corruption, the unfair sufferings of the minorities, the deaths of the innocent, and the world, then we indeed should be shameful.
And I intend not to be.