Summer is usually my favorite time of year. It’s a season that conjures up joyful thoughts of vacations and fun in the sun. And in past years, my Facebook newsfeed would be filled with images of friends enjoying themselves, frolicking on the Jersey shore or hiking around some exotic locale.
But not this summer. Instead, my Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with story after story of heart wrenching and often divisive news events. It was a summer marked by bloodshed, terrorism, racism, deaths -- and friendships strained, or even ended, over events like Israel-Hamas conflict and the shooting of Michael Brown.
What a contrast this all is with 2013. Think back to last summer, when the big issues dominating our news and social media discussions were things like Miley Cyrus twerking on MTV. Or last July, when we discovered that then New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner had engaged in more sexting, Even better (or worse) -- he had created an online alias known as “Carlos Danger” to semi-anonymously send lewd pictures to women. Who would think that a year later I’d be pining for this kind of rather unserious, tabloid-ready news?
And, yes, we did have some serious issues in the summer of 2013 that caused an uproar, the biggest being the George Zimmerman acquittal. But that was the exception to a summer that was mostly about lighter news.
So let’s take a quick look at a few of the news events from these past three months that caused some of us to down a handful of Prilosec.
Michael Brown and Eric Garner: Two more unarmed black men killed by the police -- Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Garner in New York City. While the Brown story and the subsequent protests grabbed national headlines, the video of Garner being literally choked to death by the NYPD filled my social media feeds. These incidents served as reminder of two alarming things. The first is that being a black male still increases the likelihood you will be killed by the police. And the second it that while 80 percent of blacks want to have a discussion about race to address the underlying issues that led to these types of tragedies, most whites desperately want to avoid that conversation.
The Israel-Hamas War: For almost two months this conflict consumed my friends, my social media world, and me. During this 50-day war, Facebook and Twitter were filled with gut-wrenching images of civilian suffering, with Palestinians bearing the overwhelming brunt of a conflict where nearly 500 children were killed. We saw celebrities who weren’t even known for being political join the conversation. -- and friends who had never offered an opinion on the Middle East conflict suddenly became animated.
We also saw the ugly face of Anti-Semitism rise again, primarily in Europe. And closer to home, I distressingly witnessed social media friends, who had previously been allies in fighting Islamaphobia, spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric as passions flared over the war. And, with a conflict this divisive, I doubt I’m alone in that experience. Time will tell if the friendships frayed by this conflict will ever be repaired.
The Death of Robin Williams: In a summer that was already painful, this just added to the grief. Williams was a beloved figure -- one that transcended generations. Williams’s death touched millions of people, many in the same way as the passing of a good friend or even a family member.
ISIS: Just when you thought the summer couldn’t get worse, it did. We learned about ISIS – the “Islamic” State of Iraq and Syria, which is still wreaking havoc in the Middle East. I put the word Islamic in quotes because ISIS slaughters Muslims more than it does anyone else. ISIS is not Islamic, they are barbaric. We saw seemingly endless tales of ISIS wantonly killing Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and anyone else that dared stand in the way of their pursuit of power. And bringing this home for all was the horrid beheading of American journalist James Foley.
The Ukraine-Russia battle: This conflict is literally escalating as I write. The headlines Thursday morning featured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claiming a “Russian invasion” was underway as Putin’s troops streamed into his country. While this conflict has not yet attracted the media coverage of the above stories, it did dominate our headlines in July after a pro-Russian separatists shot down a Malaysian airline passenger plane, killing the 298 people on board.
There you have it, the soul sucking summer of 2014. We could all use a vacation after these past three months.
While no one can say with any certainty what the fall will bring, it’s hard to imagine that it can be worse than what we just experienced. So, here’s hoping that in next few months our conservations are less about bloodshed and violence and more about celebrities gyrating and politicians in sex scandals. At least with those news stories, no one dies and we don’t lose friends discussing them.