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Let's make 2017 a kinder, better year

PUBLISHED: 14:19 18 January 2017 | UPDATED: 14:19 18 January 2017

Norwich people show their support for the owners of the fire attacked Village Shop in Magdalen Street and show that they won't stand for racism in Norwich. Photo: Simon Finlay

Norwich people show their support for the owners of the fire attacked Village Shop in Magdalen Street and show that they won't stand for racism in Norwich. Photo: Simon Finlay

Last year was rubbish. There's not really another way to put it. From David Bowie's tragic death in early January, 2016 just seemed to be a snowballing news story of misery. The highlights of the year would fit on a Post It note.

Norwich people show their support for the owners of the fire attacked Village Shop in Magdalen Street and show that they won't stand for racism in Norwich. Photo: Simon FinlayNorwich people show their support for the owners of the fire attacked Village Shop in Magdalen Street and show that they won't stand for racism in Norwich. Photo: Simon Finlay

The onslaught of celebrity deaths was heartbreaking for a lot of people, so many great musicians, actors and comedians left us. We took part in public mourning for the loss of our favourite entertainers as if entertainment itself was on its deathbed. But it wasn’t just the passing of great people that marred the year, it was the loss of hope and compassion that really made 2016 so bad.

The run up to the referendum was a mess, the misinformation being shared overshadowed any rare piece of reasonable logical debate. Everyone was talking about it and everyone had an opinion. The week before the vote felt like we’d started a national game of Chinese whispers.

The outrageous murder of MP Jo Cox was absolutely shocking, but the headlines couldn’t keep up – June was a month of scandal upon scandal and we seemed to forget Jo so soon.

What followed the vote was ugly, the rise of hate crimes against minorities was sickening. Even here in lovely little Norwich, the attack on the Eastern European shop on Magdalen Street showed how high tensions had reached.

The reaction to the attack showed how much love there is here, the outpouring of messages of hope and love was wonderful. What we need to do now is not forget - we need to continue to show love, hope and compassion to all, not just after a terrible event, but always.

It felt like we’ve pressed fast forward on the spread of polarising politics, and we’ve found ourselves now without any centre ground, just “hard left” and “alt right”.

Of course the rebranding of fascism to alt right, is one of the strings to this year’s bow – a marketing miracle.

Trump’s winning of the US Presidential election was a shock to many here across the pond, but really we should have known.

The rise of far right politics around the world has been increasing for years, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump capitalise on our basic fears of economic insecurity and find blame on those who are vulnerable, brand them as the other coming to steal from us, from our way of life, from all we hold dear. Children fleeing war zones are seen as the enemy: how have we reached this point?

At the recent festive period we were surrounded by messages of goodwill to all, of hope and love and the wonderful feeling of cheer. But it feels so disingenuous for us to spend 11 months eroding all trace of basic common decency and end it with a grand display of holiday spirit.

We need to make sure this year we don’t put away our feelings of goodwill with our Christmas decorations, we need to continue the charitable spirit through 2017 and be better.

Be better at stamping out hatred, stamping out the cancerous growth of fascism, be better at calling out our politicians who aren’t doing enough for us and our neighbours who need our help.

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