Happy New Year, America. What can we do in 2017 to make it different than the last?

Like many others, I am still coming to terms with understanding the impact of the recent election, its ramifications and implications. As the new year dawns, I want to understand how to go forward and I want to contemplate aspects of society that feel like they get lost in the frenzy of today’s world.

It is very easy to be dismissive of people who disagree with you and to view politics as a game to be won or lost. To the victor, goes the spoils. In actuality, it is the sum of people’s lives that hangs in the balance.

As new year dawn, it is a great opportunity to reflect and to assess as we attempt to navigate a changing political landscape. That sounds like a platitude but it is the truth. I want to introduce myself on this subject by saying that I am a millennial and a moderate. I have always considered my politics to be fairly pragmatic. I can change my mind on opinions when presented with credible evidence. Sometimes I have been wary of political experimentation but the refinement and adaptation of policy are the frameworks upon which society is built. The relative quality of the product is measured by that process. I know that I am stating the obvious but there are times when the obvious must be stated and this is such a moment.

My reason for stating the basis of a lot of my political views is that our political system is seeing such upheaval that I feel the need to point out that people like me do still exist. I don’t want to keep the status quo.

Right now, the status quo is not working for many people.  I want America to not lose the dialectic of progress that it has had in implementing the principles of its founders. This feels like a moment where that is at risk.

We need to be thinking. We need to be questioning. It has never been more important to do so than it is right now. Throughout history, we have seen radical and reckless moments. We have seen reactionary retrenchments. Blood has soaked the soil and paving stones and street corners for various causes and continues to do so, most recently in places like Aleppo and the Philippines. Waking up to the headlines that we see can sometimes be disheartening but we need to keep our resolve.

We are facing an increasingly fractious and uncertain future. Major policy decisions are being considered both domestically and internationally that call into question the kind of society that we are and the kind of society that we want to be.

In our era, we have more access to information than ever before but does that information impact us? Does it instead just wash over us as an inundation that we ignore so long as we feel like we are able to function enough? To get by enough without thriving? I am talking about our roles as citizens and as creators of the social fabric of our country. Like generations that came before us, we have a responsibility for what happens during our stewardship and for our role in creating change.

We have been through a lot in recent years especially in terms of the seismic global recession and internecine conflict. The truth is that as a society, we have not really dealt deeply with the uneven impact of economic development and struggle in our society on many levels. It becomes easy to blame others and to turn away from them but as we do so, we resolve nothing.

What can we do in this coming year to make it different than the last?

We need to have a respectful dialogue. The breakdown of that is at the root of so many problems.

We need to take serious problems seriously. By turning politics into a game where people’s needs only get addressed if they are lucky enough to win by getting their candidate into office, we erode public confidence in the polity as a whole. We have seen that in questions of voter suppression and legislative manipulation such as the recent assessment of democratic process in North Carolina. We have seen it in questions regarding the relevance of the electoral college.

We need to stay vigilant. This is true in so many ways and with regard to so many issues. Rights are easily taken for granted and in the coming year, we may sometimes see their value being doubted. We need to engage in active citizenship by staying informed and engaged at each level of society. As has been pointed out, US demographics are changing. Millennials are in the ascendancy despite weakened economic weight and the erosion of the middle class. Diversity is increasing. Attitudes toward religion are changing. Public policy that wants to make a lasting positive impact will need to reflect reality.

Let’s do what we can in the coming year to make things better, not worse.

Read more: Donald J. Trump Calls For A Meeting With The Intelligence Community

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Krista Westerlund

Krista Westerlund is an independent thinker. She holds a Master's Degree in European Politics from LSE.

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