Curtain Raiser

A Summer to Remember, Colltalers

Both Labor Day, which is celebrated today in the U.S., and the unofficial ending of the northern hemisphere summer that the holiday marks, feel artificial: while the season still has two weeks left, for 80 other countries, First of May is Labor Day.
Being as it may, we can always list and cross reference a few events, to see whether the past three months will be missed or we’re better off that they’re finally over. It’s a mixed bag, as it turns out. The heat fell good, but the world remains deeply troubled.
So what? By now, we’re used to that kind of simplification. After all, they’re only artificial conventions, by which we attempt to make sense out of an endless sequence of days and nights. Yes, the end of the summer does bring the sour out for some people.
There have been things that remain just as bad as they ever were, others that improve beyond what anyone could’ve expected, and still others the solution to which will be just as challenging even to the minority who’s still care desperately to see them through.
Let’s start with the worst, shall we? By far, still seizing headlines on the global front, it is, of course, the refugee crisis, that seemed to have exploded out of nowhere. It’s actually been here, and consistently ignored, however, at least for the past 15 years, to stay in this century (and the clear side of made up timeframes). But it did hit a feverish peak this summer.
Either because millions are now on the move, driven from their lands by war or climate change, or because suddenly they’ve flooded the gates of major European cities, the fact is that the dispossessed finally earned a speck of our collective attention.
They had been more easily ignored while camped by the thousands in incredibly unsanitary conditions at the Syrian borders, or trapped by invading forces within Middle East cities, or completely at mercy of their own oppressive governments. It was only when

they began to move, and die by the hundreds, that we have finally been forced to notice. Whether this will help, who knows?
Also, if you’re living in the U.S., are black or member of a racial or sexual minority, and possibly unemployed and broke, your life has lost considerable value. In fact, that particular demographics is under heavy fire, and you may have plenty of reasons to see the police as your most explicit enemy. Racism has had a stronger hold on this summer than pretty much any other issue.
South Carolina wound up being the stage for the two events that have bracketed the season of race struggle like no others: the massacre in June of a black church congregation in Charleston, and the long-overdue coming down of the Confederate flag from the state government buildings less than a month later. Once again, it may have taken a tragedy to right a half-century wrong.
Before, during and after, of course, a succession of unarmed black youth have been shot, and throughout the season itself, guns continued to be the common denominator of so many shootings and massacres. But Americans remain numbed and unable to address the gun issue with any clarity, notwithstanding such a bloody routine, so it was again successfully ducked by the usual lobby.
Not coincidentally, there’s been a spike in crime in major U.S. cities, but despite all racial tensions, rampant social and income inequality, and a astonishing availability of heavy street weaponry for the take, authorities seem ‘baffled’ by the rise.
Chicago, Baltimore and New York lead this ravenous pack, but Milwaukee is the one with the biggest increase compared to last year’s numbers. Precise statistics are suddenly hard to come by but even a superficial analysis of where, when, and who are the most affected segments brings to light the kind of evidence that so displeases police and law enforcement officials.
Violent death in the U.S. streets is way more prevalent than the wars the nation wages in distant lands and equally underestimated. But no presidential candidate has stepped forward with a feasible strategy. In other words, the beatings will continue.
In the category of things that are not nearly as bad as they may become real soon, climate change has been highlighted with the heat waves that staggered India, Pakistan and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Europe.
Now, it was summer, for crying out loud; when is it not supposed to be hot? The problem is, though, that record high temperatures continue to be broken, and if the pattern confirms, 2015 will be topping the warmest year on record: you guess it, 2014.
The thing about climate change is not about its peaks, however; it is the consistency. Just a few years ago, to think that the Arctic would be a valid trade route was nothing less than a joke. Now, instead of laughing, nations are jockeying to profit from it.
But once again, their approach to occupation is all wrong. In the climate front, President Obama took one step forward, with a new energy policy proposal, and unfortunately, two backwards, with his endorsement of drilling in selected areas of the Arctic.
Of course, no one can ignore the geopolitical implications of letting Russia and other countries rush to the region and establish bases and routes there. The U.S. couldn’t possibly miss that. But to allow an oil mammoth with a spotty environmental record to have a go at it was probably not the president’s shiniest moment. And we all stand the potential to suffer from his decision.
As we’ve just passed the 10-year mark of the worst natural disaster in the U.S., the Hurricane Katrina, and the still very much present impact it’s left in the south, one can’t help but wonder what the current hurricane season still has in store for us.
We’ve been lucky, apparently, but a new ‘edition’ of the global weather phenomenon known as El Niño may compound to a winter with higher instability and heavier than usual rain downpours. Hopefully still in time to put out the West Coast wild fires.
Finally, in the segment of things to which summer has been OK, there are the twin Supreme Court June decisions. One validated, and is supposed to end the discussion over, health care coverage, with yet another ruling supporting Obamacare. And the other confirmed the same-sex marriage legality in all American states, which may have buried for good all arguments opposing it.
As a coda for the season, it’s also important to remember that it was the one that saw the Iran nuclear agreement signed and, most likely, to be approved by the Senate; the rising of an American flag in Havana, Cuba. And the relative stabilization of Greece, which remains to be seen whether it’ll pull itself together, but should be also grateful to be left off the headlines for a moment.
So there you have it: a three-month summer summary, even if you still have hopes of taking time off before it completely recedes in the back mirror. It’s been tragic to many but probably magical to others too. From our part, we can’t forget to wish that, despite all of the above, and everything else, you have also fallen in love this summer. Just because it feels good. Enjoy the last warm days. WC

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