There's a piece in today's paper describing 2016 as the Year of Death, especially the deaths of those who died too young. Admittedly Debbie Reynolds wasn't in the first flush of youth, but waking up to read that she had died just a day after her daughter Carrie Fisher, was shocking.
I saw Star Wars back in the day. I became aware of Carrie Fisher, but I can't say I followed her career. It is only in recent years when she has been a regular and extremely entertaining guest on Graham Norton's shows that I have taken any interest in her. She came across there as funny, self-aware, warm and almost unforgivingly honest. Graham Norton obviously loved her, and there was always a relaxed rapport between them.
The Year of Death began with Aunt, who died 14th January. In the same week Alan Rickman and David Bowie died. Both were people I admired, but it's fair to say it was Aunt's death that affected me, and continues to affect me, the most.
The other death that made the greatest impact on me was that of Jo Cox, murdered by a right wing extremist in the run up to the referendum. The reverberations of her death are still echoing, and will continue to echo as we go into 2017.
The referendum question was a simple one of stay or leave, but the far right immediately seized on it and hijacked the out vote as one for anti-immigration, nationalist policies. Shamefully, the Tory government in the shape of Theresa May, immediately responded by pursuing these lines, doing the work of the far right for them, making speeches that encourage disunity, saying people are right to fear immigrants accepting lower wages and thus taking 'their' jobs. (Surely it is the buying public wanting ever cheaper prices, and bosses seeking a labour market who will accept less pay that is to blame here.)
If I have followed the arguments correctly, the Tories are worried about UKIP's share of the vote, and are clothing themselves in these ugly arguments to retain power. In this they are supported by various newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch and the Daily Mail, a paper that continues to describe Jo Cox' murderer as a person with mental health issues, rather than the white supremacist he has been shown to be.
The Tories are playing a very dangerous game. This is appeasement. You give the far right a bit of what it wants, use its rhetoric, and think you can rein it in, contain it. Not so distant history shows this does not work. Having taken one bite out of democracy, the far right is unlikely to declare itself satisfied. It will come back for more and yet more. It will flex its muscles, strap on the metaphorical knuckle dusters, behave like a bullying colossus, all the while claiming it represents ordinary people.
Nigel Farage, Donald Trump's new BFF, has said he's glad he's not leader of UKIP anymore as his rich friends laughed at his meagre salary of £85,000 pounds. For most of us ordinary people, an annual salary of that size represents unimaginable wealth. Farage gets an inordinate amount of media exposure, presumably because he is guaranteed to say something outrageous. I saw him on Channel 4 the other week, he was the voice of one argument, Ken Clarke, the other. That also says quite a lot about the way we are now, when balance is having a member of UKIP and a Tory. Ken Clarke is no fool, but against a Farage whose playing to the gallery obviates the need for a proper argument, he was made to look like one. Farage referred to him as 'dear old Ken', thereby relegating Clarke and his arguments to that old fashioned, obsolete world where facts and experts and truth were what mattered. Farage is a professional when it comes to lies. He seems to me to be a natural rabble rouser, dangerous when he was on the sidelines of British politics, now he is a monster we have helped to create through our lethargy.
Another newspaper article from the weekend suggested that the bright side of the current mess we are in is that people are again talking about politics, that whatever you think about it, politics is no longer boring. The ease of communicating has had some devastating effects, particularly in the US where fake news 'informed' an electorate who looked no further than Facebook for information. But that same ease of communication has meant that those of us who are horrified by the turn of world events can also rally online, we can speak to each other, realise we are many, we are strong.
In this country on Christmas Day the Queen's Speech is broadcast. She is shown sitting in front of a Christmas tree, reflecting on the year, delivering a message of unity. For years I would escape from the room at my parents' home rather than sit through these messages. This year, when I came home from eating with friends on Christmas Day, I watched it on catch up, and found it quietly moving and inspirational. I expect it's available on YouTube. I also watched the Alternative Christmas Message on Channel 4. Brendan Cox was the message bearer. Nigel Farage tried to persuade people just before Christmas that Cox is in someway supporting terrorists. How low that man can stoop is gobsmacking.
As you'd expect, Brendan Cox' message was rather more uplifting. You can see it via this link.