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COLUMN: Dictionary.com's apt word of the year

Dictionary.com released Monday that its word of the year is complicit.

The word complicit is defined as “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing.”

Dictionary.com stated that 2017 has been defined by those on the wrong and right sides of being complicit. 

And as many can agree, 2017 seemed to be the year of lacking accountability, pervasiveness of immaturity, and a disposition of looking the other way when something wrong is happening.

In a negative sense, being complicit has the connotation of being a bystander or turning the other cheek on immoral acts. 

For example, the fallout from the 2016 election, the investigations of both the Trump and Clinton campaigns for election meddling and fraud has led to a large amount of top-ranking government officials exposed as complicit in illegal activities both within the United States and other countries. 

Other examples of complicity include the president’s lack of admonishment toward the organizers and participants of the Charlottesville, Virginia, rallies. 

Another example is Congress pushing a health care act that would systematically disenfranchise the lives of many lower- and middle-class citizens.

In addition, pushing harmful social norms, such as unrealistic female body image and a lack of serious punishment for sexual assault all fall into the bucket of complicity. 

It seems the root of complicity can be traced to a lack of responsibility or ownership of one’s action. Being complicit requires a shirking of accountability or duty to other people because it is easier or provides personal gain. 

For a proper democracy to work, citizens have to care about one another and be held accountable for their actions. Not only political leaders but every citizen needs to stand up against illegal or immoral acts. 

That’s why in 2018 the word of the year our society should aim to reflect is “unite.” 

The definition of unite is to “come or bring together for a common purpose or action,” particularly in a political context. 

Uniting with others requires a maturity from both leaders and common citizens that 2017 has lacked. It requires us to have empathy for other people, be willing to consider different opinions and act not just for ourselves but for the common good. 

The positive stands in 2017 against complicity already show unification. 

For example, the #MeToo movement stands against complicity in sexual assault. 

The recent November elections, which resulted in the first transgender and Sikh candidates being elected to their respective offices, show a movement against complicity in white male candidates owning a large part of what is supposed to be a representative government. 

As Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said in his resignation, “Silence can equal complicity.” 

In an era where the nation may feel more divided than ever, it is on us as citizens to mobilize and link up with other people for a common cause. This is necessary to fix our nation’s ills moving forward.


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