"Summer's long, but I guess it ain't very sweet around here anymore." ~ Bruce Sprinsteen "Incident on 57th Street"
What an awful summer.
A piece I read this winter (apologies for not citing) took on the drug industry’s advertising medications for maladies formerly considered part of life. She noted an ad for a pill to cure seasonal depression, a real and serious condition for some, but the author observed that if you were not depressed last winter, you either did not care or were not paying attention. Now, if you are not even more depressed this summer, please, let me know what you are taking. For this is a truly dreadful summer. (Note, I promise, soon, to write of the inevitability of good prevailing over evil, if only good people will get off the fence soon enough and in sufficient quantity).
Global Frying, Flooding, Blowing, Melting
Anyone still denying global warming needs some medication, therapy, or a revolution (for the ones who think they can get rich enough to buy their way out of the calamity).
A record heat wave in the American Southeast has killed dozens. Disastrous flooding from Texas to Minnesota dozens more. Another bad fire season in the West is destroying more of our shrinking forests.
We have seen our first category five hurricane of the season in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Although it barely registers to we nation-centric Americans because it only hit Mexico and killed few due to a lucky landfall, consider this: a change in direction of only a few degrees would have placed Dean in the center of the Gulf, where it could have wreaked God knows what havoc. Oh, and we had a thunderstorm bringing hurricane force winds to Chicago!
The Arctic ice shelf is melting at a rate that is alarming even to the forecasters who had predicted among the most alarming rates of melting. This is a self-magnifying phenomenon with potentially horrendous and rapid consequences for the entire world.
Heat, drought, floods, big winds and melting sea ice. All classic symptoms of global warming. All accelerating the date beyond which we cannot sustain a decent life on this planet. All in one summer.
Good Sports Gone Bad
Late summer usually at least gives us a mental break from our worries and stresses in the form of the baseball pennant races and the opening weeks of professional and college football. As vapid and superficial (and overly macho and sometimes violent) as sports can be, the placid poetry of baseball allows us to breathe and relax a little in a too-fast society, not to mention giving us all manner of quirky statistics to discuss when we don’t want to talk about the weight of the world. The excitement of the early weeks of football season adds electricity to the late summer air and another opportunity to focus on and talk about something unspoiled by the problems and impurities of the real world.
Not this summer. What should have been among the greatest moments in the history of sport, Barry Bonds’ home run record, was so soiled by steroid use (actual or perceived) that it was largely decried, or even worse, all in all, met with one huge shrug of our collective shoulders. The main problem with Bonds, methinks, was the analogy to the modern political scandal: Bonds did something we all feel was wrong, even immoral, to get an edge over other hard-working players, but he would never really admit or deny it, and he claimed (even if not directly) it was not a technical violation of any rules because steroids were not specifically banned by baseball when he used them. Bonds finally used the defense (again, even if not directly) that, well, everyone else was doing it, so why should I have disadvantaged myself? Classic American narcissistic elevation of personal achievement over honor and virtue.
Okay, but we still have football, don’t we? Not this summer. Perhaps the sport’s greatest current star, Michael Vick, gets his thrills watching dogs shred each other to bits. His defense? He only provided funding for the operations, but did not directly participate. Another athlete using the politician defense: there is no proof I was directly involved or had direct knowledge. But who is the more responsible, the person who puts up the funds to make dog fighting possible on a larger scale or the schmucks who run the individual fights?
Please. Two of our greatest stars not only doing wrong, but evading responsibility and insulting our intelligence and character by dancing their little side steps. No respite from the real world in sports this summer.
Bad Wars Gone Worse
I know I don’t have to say much about how bad things are in Iraq and Afghanistan. The surge of troops has been accompanied by an increase in Iraqi violent deaths and the highest rate of deaths among US soldiers of the entire war. War hawks pointed to a reduction in troop deaths in July, the same July that was the worst July of the war for US troop deaths. This summer saw the deadliest single event of the entire war in Kurdistan, and is witness to the decay of even the cartoon semblance of government Iraq had cobbled together.