Once one year ends and a new begins, we become bombarded with lists of the top songs, movies, books, news stories, athletes, this, that, and the other. Often times, though, one common trend or topic is what is remembered years later. 2011 is often regarded as the year of the protester in lieu of the Arab Spring and Occupy movements. 2009 has been defined by the global economic crisis.
While history will have to determine what the past year will be most remembered for, there are a few significant topics that have stood out and could very well stand out as the most important story of 2012, at least from a Canadian standpoint.
Leading the charge, 2012 could very well be the year of the lone gunman. While every year brings about a significant mass shooting that draws media attention, this past year saw a startling amount of horror at the hands of an individual with a gun. In the United States alone, there were at least seventeen mass shootings in 2012, leaving more than ninety dead. The tenth shooting of the year, at a Colorado movie theatre screening The Dark Knight Rises that left twelve people dead, spawned a national debate in the media and public in the U.S. about gun control laws. Three weeks later, an Army veteran and white supremacist opened fire at a Sikh temple, killing six and then himself in Wisconsin. Then, just eleven days before Christmas, a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, left twenty-six dead, twenty of which were children. The last mass shooting took place in upstate New York, when a man intentionally set a fire luring emergency workers to the scene, where he opened fire and killed two firefighters.
Mass shootings weren’t limited to just the United States, either. In early June, the food court in Toronto’s Eaton Centre was the scene of a shooting that left one dead, seven injured, and the city in a state of shock. In British Columbia, a border guard was shot in her booth, before the gunman killed himself. The border guard survived.
While it is important to not overlook other shootings that have taken place in Canada, the United States, and globally, the surge in mass shootings in public places, often unprovoked or with unclear motives, dominated the news media and put the discussion of gun control in the minds and voices of citizens of Canada, the U.S., and the world over.
Meanwhile, there was another surge in random acts of violence that took place in 2012, though those acts all had one common denominator: bath salts. Having similar effects as cocaine, the crystallized drug became one of the biggest stories of 2012 after a string of bizarre, and in some cases brutal, incidents related to the drug. In Calgary, a twenty-one year old high on the drug fought with police, where he was “completely impervious to any sort of pain compliance techniques we might have been able to use on him,” according to Calgary Police Duty Inspector Paul Stacey in a report by the CBC. In another instance, again in Calgary, a young man smashed his face into a fence and allegedly tried to remove his own nose. In Toronto, the drug led a man on a rampage where he sent two police officers to the hospital with broken bones in their face, nose, and hand.
In the United States, the drug created a wave of zombie-like attacks in the south. In three separate instances, bath salts were believed to have been the cause of cannibalistic attacks where an individual bit or ate parts of another individual.
To a lesser extent, 2012 could be remembered as the year of labour disputes. Hockey fans found themselves subject to yet another NHL work stoppage, the third such stoppage in sixteen years. Sticking with sports, the National Football League found itself turning to replacement referees as they were unable to get a deal done with league referees. That short experiment ended following a series of bad calls and outrage from fans, forcing the league and referees to get a deal done.
Off of the field, Canada had its fair share of high-profile labour disputes. An ongoing battle between the Province of Ontario and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has dominated the news since September. Rotating one-day strikes near the end of 2012 and a threat to pass a bill that would make strike action illegal (which has been passed now in 2012) launched this dispute into one that has been fiercely debated and discussed among the general public. The massive airline Air Canada also saw heated labour disputes in 2012, and also faced mandatory back-to-work legislation. In response, Air Canada employees, pilots included, staged mass sick days grounding thousands of travelers.
Furthermore, perhaps 2012 will be remembered as the year for transitioning politics. Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty announced he was stepping down from the position in October. In Canada’s largest city, Toronto mayor Rob Ford was removed from office following a conflict of interest violation. Quebec saw a general election that resulted in a victory for the separatist Parti Quebecois, following a year of police raids and arrests in an uncovering of mass government corruption in the province and a large-scale student protest that swept across the entire province and garnered international attention.
On a lighter note, 2012 could be remembered as the year of Gangnam Style. Psy’s Korean dance hit took the world by storm, reaching number one on Canadian, Australian, Italian, Mexican, Russian, Scottish, and UK charts, and number two on the U.S. Billboard charts. The song’s music video also surpassed one billion views on YouTube, the first video to ever do so. Gangnam Style spurred numerous covers and music video recreations, including one by the Marauders’ men’s basketball team, while the very popular dance moves were attempted by the likes of U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Psy was featured on prominent television shows worldwide, including a special performance on Saturday Night Live.
Or perhaps, 2012 will go down as the year “reality” television hit rock bottom. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, Duck Dynasty, and Redneck Island are just a few of the shows pushing this charge into the destruction of television programming. While the quality of reality television has been declining for a few years now, it appears we hit rock bottom in 2012.
Perhaps there is something that affected you personally or that you took great interest in which will be how you remember 2012. The Kony campaign, Hurricane Sandy, Israel-Palestine conflict, the corruption in Quebec, or countless other topics were all big news this past year.
Ultimately, though, this year will go down as being remembered of the lone gunman. When I say that, though, I do not mean to reward or bring fame to those shooters. It is for that reason none of the shooters’ names have been listed. It is the victims that we should be remembering. Because really, when I say lone gunman, I mean the public shooting, the fear of visiting areas that were never feared before. Movie theatres, elementary schools, food courts, spas, places of worship. Each of these have changed in our minds, even if just the slightest, to a memory of the terrible horror that occurred at each of these locations throughout the last year. While history will have to show us in what way we look back at these shootings in ten, twenty years, perhaps as beginning the discussion on stricter gun control or mental health issues, or as the furthering of a risk society, or as the beginning of an ugly trend, the issue of mass public shootings in 2012 will still be remembered.