It would certainly be easy to do a piece about 10 horrible events from 2015 – from the ongoing war in Syria and the refugee crisis to the terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, and San Bernardino and the rise of Donald Trump and Islamophobia.
But that wouldn’t be a very inspiring way to bid farewell to this year and usher in a new one. So let’s look at 10 reasons to feel better about 2015.
- The Iran nuclear deal held up. Despite significant political opposition and millions of dollars spent to try to quash the deal, the nuclear agreement with Iran was passed and the possibility of another U.S. military entanglement was narrowly avoided. The powerful lobby AIPAC had its wings clipped, as did Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (except that the deal unfortunately came with a payoff of even more U.S. tax dollars going to the Israeli military).
- Relations are thawing with Cuba. It’s official! The U.S. and Cuba now have embassies in each other’s territory for the first time in over half a century. The year has been marked by a UN meeting between Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama, more travelers to Cuba, and more trade between both countries. But Congress still needs to lift the trade embargo, fully lift the travel ban, and return the Guantanamo naval base to the Cubans.
- The Keystone pipeline ain’t happenin’. After years of stellar grassroots activism against the Keystone pipeline (and years of lobbying by the oil companies), President Obama finally took the side of the activists – and the planet – by shutting down the project. And while the Paris climate talksdidn’t result in the dramatic commitments we need to stop global climate chaos, they did raise consciousness and move the global community in the right direction.
- The Black Lives Matter movement is getting results. This incredible uprising has forced issues of racial injustice into the national spotlight and created real reforms in communities across the country. The movement for black lives got its momentum in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri and spread throughout the nation. Cops have been convicted, police chiefs have been ousted, citizen review boards have been empowered, confederate flags have come down, buildings named after racists have been renamed, and presidential candidates have been forced to talk about race. Kudos to the many young black activists leading the way.
- Canada’s welcoming refugees. While Donald Trump was threatening to ban Muslims from the United States, the newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed the rest of the world how a country can open its doors —— and hearts —— to Syrian refugees. Trudeau and other smiling officials personally welcomed Canada’s first batch of Syrian refugees with flowers, toys, clothing, goodwill, and the heartfelt declaration, “You are home.” Trudeau proclaimed: “We get to show the world how to open our hearts and welcome in people who are fleeing extraordinarily difficult situations…because we define a Canadian not by a skin color or a language or a religion or a background, but by a shared set of values, aspirations, hopes, and dreams.”