“What a radical idea…the freedom to chase our individual dreams through sweat, toil, and imagination, and the imperative to strive together” – Barack Obama
When words are not enough, we have antiquities to treasure our memories. Most of all, we have photographs, available to us from as early as the 1800s, to contemplate the extraordinary philosophies of human civilization and its milestones. Moments are perceived differently from generation to generation, perhaps by artistic illustrations to actual snapshots, all portraying the truth. What we see is what we experience, and ultimately who we are. Photographs depict solidarity and prestige. Moments are our very existence.
As we welcome 2018, history fades. Moments are transitory but forever engraved in our hearts. With some pictures, we feel distressed, cowardice of the unexplored, and in some, downright exultation. 2017 was a year of panic, prudence, affinity, and the evanescent comprehension of sensitivity. What do you perceive in the depictions below? Perhaps hope in place of detriment, or maybe serenity in place of distrust? Photographs help us discern what is revealed in each account. Whatever it may be, there will always be love and hope.
On 10 January 2017, the first African-American US President Barack Obama wiped away tears upon his final goodbye to the people of his origin, Chicago. Growing up in a small town in South Chicago, Obama knew all too well of his farewell. There were flashbacks of anticipation and familiar advocacy, of his favoured hometown and his service. Perhaps for some, it was a moment of apprehension of the future. Would our next leader administer as well as he did? We stood by him, seeing him not as a leader, but as a companion. This moment rendered the uncertainty of closing the door to history and embarking on the unknown.
20 January 2017. Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony commenced him as the 45th president of the United States below the US Capitol building in Washington D.C. With his button-down blazer coat recognised worldwide, Donald Trump strode down the aisle to his destiny. For many, this was an outlandish moment in history, millions watching alarmed and spiteful. Mr Trump challenged us with his grit. Originally from Queens, New York, a city rather frigid, Trump’s demeanour has always reflected New York, somewhat rough around the edges, but overall canny. This image shows the shuddering near-future of disarray and contempt, certainly not a mission many can withstand.
Just nine days after Mr Trump succession into office, the travel ban took place across the US. Muslims gathered to pray at the baggage counter at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Dallas, Texas to defend their rights for a better future. The image signifies the freedom of religion and voice for the minority immigrant American people. Many US citizens have stood by the rights of the refugees in the promise of aid in times of disorder. They showed unprejudiced favour for the afflicted. This is the American dream.
“Black Lives Matter” is an international social movement in full force with the gravity of racial developments in the US. Disturbances such as the white supremacist/neo-Nazis riots that threatened the African community sparked discrimination by the US police in Charlottesville, Virginia. Protesters, such as Kandy Freeman, stood beneath the Trump Tower amid Trump’s pro-white nationalism. This movement’s existence shows our society’s mindset of unacceptable antipathy. Most importantly, why is racism still an issue? When will the human people accept one another in alliance against injustice?
Refugee advocate and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented the Nobel Peace Prize (below top left) to Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for girls’ education and rightful wellbeing in underdeveloped countries, still under deep-seated biased customs. Rural Pakistan, like many countries, prohibits girls’ education as a customary practice in order to maintain the orthodox beliefs that a woman’s sole purpose is servitude. Anything beyond this would be considered dishonourable to the community. This moment models the need for appreciation in one’s humanitarian efforts and awareness of the unknown. Justin Trudeau has long since accepted neglected refugees to shelter in Canada. This image shares the unity and intrepidity of two fascinating souls.
The “Butcher of Bosnia”, army general Ratko Mladic, was finally brought to justice for genocide and crimes against humanity in former Yugoslavia between 1992-1995 during the Bosnian war (below top right). He was found guilty of ethnic cleansing of 100,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica. It’s been recorded as the worst massacre to have occurred since WWII. His arrest after 14 years as a fugitive has brought international justice by a tribunal. After bringing trauma and tragedy to countless families, the “epitome of evil” has finally been sentenced. The Serbian president declared, “My call to all citizens of Serbia is to start looking at the future today. Let’s think about where and how our children will live. How and in what way will we preserve peace and stability in the region.”
On 14 May 2017, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un kept busy with the successful test launch of the Hwasong-12 nuclear missile that had the potential to destroy half of the earth’s atmosphere. But more importantly, the successful launch of the missile docked just short of Japan, causing suspicion of intent, with threats of bombing the US Military in Guam. “The mobility of the Hwasong-12 has been advanced and it appears to be the most serious North Korean weapon to watch,” said Yang Wook, a senior researcher of the Korea Defense and Security Forum. Since then, his exiled half-brother’s assassination also sparked headlines in September 2017.
On 8 June 2017, former FBI director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Russian Federation’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 US elections. With no prior knowledge of his dismissal, Comey was defamed and accused of assisting the Russian-American collusion and tampering with Hillary Clinton’s private email server. The image depicts the bravery of facing what may or may not be true. Could this allegation be another result of Mr Trump’s many inequitable statements? Or was the FBI truly attempting to overthrow the US President?
Another moment we were to witness was the solar eclipse of 2017. Viewed in Oregon as the best perception on Earth for the totality of the solar eclipse, millions were mesmerised by the cryptic symbolism of the Earth’s darkness. For millennia, humans have always theorised the solar eclipse to be the end of days or the apocalypse. Although it doesn’t fall into the category of terrorism or natural calamities, the solar eclipse was perhaps the only time the Earth stood united.
2017 marked the start of the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, the majority of the people killed (69%) were shot, while others were burned and beaten to death. “We heard reports of entire families who perished after they were locked inside their homes, while they were set alight.” The Rohingya militant group were accused of mass gang rape of women and children. Sources conceal the totality of the pillage, and aid is not available, as the Rohingya Muslims were not considered citizens of the land.
Above is Canada’s Marissa Papaconstantinou, reaching the finish line of the Women’s 200m T44 Final in the IAAF World ParaAthletics Championships that took place in London. Started in the early 21st century, ParaAthletic Olympic games have given new hope and purpose for disabled communities around the world. Marissa gained international recognition when she tore her hamstring upon reaching the finish line. This sort of determination proves all things are possible if you just believe.
Words: Aparna Nethaji
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