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Year 2016 began with the death of my friend and neighbor Benny on January 4. Every day, I looked out onto our desolate courtyard. Gone were the moments spent with Benny, his wife, and their nature-loving daughter.

I wasn’t alone in my grief. In the Middle East where our endless wars of terror ground on without mercy, death was everywhere. No family was spared. Collective grief saturated the air. Wailing mothers shattered the light. Traumatized orphaned children roamed the rubble of a stolen future.

How many more people must lose their homes, their livelihoods, and their loved ones for our freedom, comfort, and security? What are the consequences for the pain we inflict with impunity on women, children, and other civilians? Where is our moral compass?

The disintegration of my son’s marriage came two days after the news of Benny’s death. After my emotional struggle to let go of my son, his sudden return home disrupted the space (emotional and physical) I had created for myself in his absence. Watching my son’s battle to realign his life, while still clinging to his love for his estranged wife, frittered away at my inner peace.

During our 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, I observed the disintegration of our two-party political system. Both parties were in crisis. My disappointment at having my favored candidate lose the nomination for the Democratic Party shattered my hope for meaningful change. Whichever presidential candidate won the top post meant a loss for we the people.

The discovery of cancer cells in one of her lungs turned the life of a close friend on its head and threw mine off balance. Over the months that followed, experimental and other treatments didn’t prevent the spread of the cancerous cells to other areas of her body. Cancer sucked the joy from the time we spent together.

During his bid for the presidency, the Republican candidate unleashed cancerous cells of bigotry, hatred, misogyny, and xenophobia. This virulent cancer infected the heart and lungs of our nation. Millions of Americans can’t breathe under oppressive police force and an economic system that puts profits before people.

While we fought each other over our perceived differences and imagined threats, Year 2016 was the hottest year since NASA started recording global temperatures 136 years ago. In California, we entered our sixth year of drought. We also battled 7,200 wildfires that burned almost 570,000 acres across the state. Ice sheets on land and sea continued to melt at rates faster than those predicted by our climate scientists.

Thanks to my sons, supportive neighbors, and friends, I have survived the dark days of Year 2016. I send out a big ‘thank you’ to my blogger friends who brightened my days and buoyed up my belief in our human capacity for compassion and love for the other. Working together, we the people have won many battles in Year 2016 across America and worldwide against powerful transnational corporations who put their profits before life. We cannot give up.