Taking stock of 2016

Mukilteans resolve to volunteer, work together in New Year
By Nicholas Johnson | Dec 28, 2016

Was 2016 the worst year ever, as many have declared on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter?

The answer seems to depend on whom you ask.

“It’s a crapshoot for a lot of folks because Trump won and a lot of famous people died,” said Sean Doran, a 21-year-old Western Washington University senior and son of former Mukilteo mayor Don Doran. “For a lot of people, 2016 just wasn’t in the cards.”

The Beacon, rather unscientifically, asked a handful of Mukilteans to weigh in, and each conceded that 2016 has seen its share of tragedy and strife – locally, nationally and globally.

Consider the war in Syria, terror attacks, police shootings, record heat, refugees, gun violence, Zika, Brexit, an exhausting election season and the loss of notable people such as Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali and several others.

Those surveyed locally cited initial intolerance toward a proposed mosque in Mukilteo, increasing rates of teen suicide in the county, under-reported domestic violence, and a mass shooting at a Mukilteo house party that left three young people dead and one injured.

“This year saw one of the most heart-wrenching tragedies anyone may have ever seen in Mukilteo,” John Collier, a 17-year Mukilteo resident, said of the July shooting. “That was a genuine tragedy.”

On the whole, though, 2016 can hardly be called the worst year in history. Even the last century features such infamous years as 1968, 1939, 1929, 1919 and 1916.

“It’s not the worst year ever, by any means,” said Emory Cole, who served as Mukilteo’s mayor in the late ‘80s and now owns Emory’s on Silver Lake. “I remember when Jimmy Carter was president, and I was waiting in line to get gasoline and interest rates were way up.”

Ann Collier, an active member of the Historical Society, agreed with her husband John, but noted Mukilteo has seen hardship before.

“In September 1930, the Crown Lumber Company closed, and it was the main employer in town,” she said. “In the same week, there was an explosion at the Puget Sound and Alaska Powder Company mill. At the time, they said that was the worst week that was.”

 

Political perspective

Still, those surveyed said the question of whether 2016 was really the worst is a matter of perspective. For many, that perspective is directly related to political preference and the outcome of this year’s presidential election, Doran said.

“In 2008 and 2012, many Republicans thought those were the worst years ever,” Doran said. “I think it’s just that this time different people are feeling it.

“For many people in Washington, 2016 was a bad year. For someone in Arkansas or any other state in middle America, this year might not have been so bad politically.”

John Collier said “the election of Donald Trump came as a tremendous shock to a lot of us, and I think the repercussions will be felt for years.”

Cole said everyone was surprised by Trump’s election because mainstream news media is biased and was complacent in its coverage of the election.

“I think people need to go back and look at why they were so surprised,” Cole said. “There needs to be a real gut check in the media’s reporting.”

Doran agreed, saying he’s noticed that opinions expressed on social media tend to be more liberal in nature, such as those tagged with #worstyearever.

“The media in general leans more Democratic, so I think you get a biased perspective from it,” he said.

John Collier, who sits on the Food Bank board of directors, said he avoids the mainstream media in favor of community news sources such as The Beacon.

“I think we have a false perception of what’s going on because of the 24-hour news cycle,” he said. “That adds to the global perspective that the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

“I think people should look to their hometown newspapers more and give them more attention, rather than allowing themselves to be bombarded by the television news all the time.”

 

Resolve to act

Lynette Gardiner-Kidd, a psychosocial nurse practitioner in Mukilteo, said she and many of her clients found themselves at a loss after Trump’s election, not sure how to move forward.

“Many of my clients are distressed and feeling helpless,” Gardiner-Kidd said. “What I tell them is we have little control over what will happen in the next four years nationally, but we as individuals can make a difference in our own community.

“Every person can make a difference, even through interactions with neighbors. I am putting my energy into volunteering.”

Gardiner-Kidd and her husband Skip Kidd, an accountant, are both members of the Kiwanis Club of Mukilteo and volunteer with the Mukilteo Community Garden, which they are proud to say harvested more than 2,000 pounds of food this year for local food banks.

“Personally, I feel much better when I do stuff like that,” Gardiner-Kidd said of volunteering. “It takes me out of myself. If I sit around and don’t do anything, the negative chatter persists in my head. So I need to stay involved.”

Gardiner-Kidd recommended donating to Packs for Kids and Clothes for Kids, as well as getting involved with community service organizations such as Kiwanis, Lions Club and Rotary Club.

Kidd said he hopes to see more young people volunteering in the New Year, not simply for school credit, but to achieve a sense of fulfillment.

“I don’t think the question of ‘How can I make a difference?’ comes up as much for young people these days because there are so many distractions and no time to reflect,” Kidd said. “I think we, as adults, need to model better behavior and hope our young people follow suit.”

Debra Bordsen, deputy director of Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County and 2016 Mukilteo Citizen of the Year, said the mass shooting had a profound impact on Mukilteo and spurred difficult, yet important discussions.

“I don’t ever want to see that again,” she said of the shooting. “It changed us, the whole town, whether you knew those young people or not.”

Bordsen said she plans to remain vigilant in the New Year, working to keep tough conversations alive in Mukilteo about gun violence, domestic violence and suicide.

“I think these things get brushed under the rug,” Bordsen said. “I think this shooting opened people’s eyes to the challenges this community faces.

“I hope we keep on pursuing these tough subjects and keep them on the front burner. Let’s not forget about these issues. Let’s try to keep helping.”

 

Pursue positivity

Whether or not 2016 was the worst, a better 2017 requires a positive mindset and a willingness to act, Bordsen said.

“If I see an injustice, I think it’s up to me to stand up and do something,” she said. “We need to take personal responsibility. I believe that can change the world.”

Kidd said there’s no sense in worrying about that which is out of our control.

“People pay attention when you go out and do something,” he said. “You can talk all you want, but to have an impact you need to walk the walk. What we do locally is the only thing we really have control over.”

Why become mired in negativity when you can choose optimism and open-mindedness, Doran said.

“I never saw the point of saying this year was the worst,” he said. “It’s not healthy to keep such a negative mindset. It doesn’t help to bring this country together.”

Cole said that when he thinks about how far America has come since his father was going to bed hungry during the Dust Bowl, he wonders why there isn’t more room for optimism and cooperation.

“The major thing that’s missing is these people being able to work across the aisle with each other,” said Cole, adding that he is keeping an open mind about Trump’s presidency.

Ann Collier agreed, saying neighbors need to leave divisive partisan politics at the door and come together to improve their community.

“The feeling of division in the country really does bother me,” she said. “That feeling that somehow we can’t all work together on things, that there have to be sides. I hope we can all put aside our differences and work together to make this world better.”

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