The “Z” on 2014…
Posted December 30, 2014on:
Good afternoon Widdershins. I trust your Christmas holiday was a good one with a minimum of coal-loaded stockings and an abundance of good cheer among family and friends. That’s the way it should be.
With 2014 coming to a close, I hope you find it appropriate to look at the year in review. In other words, look at the zeitgeist of 2014 with the benefit of a modicum of distance. For a day-by-day breakdown of the events that made 2014 the year that it was, you can check here, a CNN year-end recapitulation of events and happenings that dominated the news.
January 1st 2014 heralded the effective date of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. So far, costs have stabilized, millions have experienced health care for the first time, it is less expensive than first estimated, and we are still awaiting the end of civilization as we know it.
At the end of January, we learned about the deplorable state of affairs in some VA hospitals. Veterans died awaiting care and the problems were discovered to be systemic dating back almost a decade courtesy of the unprecedented increase of wounded from two decades long wars. After six months of political wrangling, a new act was signed into law on August 7th providing $16 billion in new money to build more VA facilities and hire more medical personnel.
Beginning in April, we saw the first of a series of botched executions in various states. Our collective response was a gaping “yawn”.
Bowe Bergdahl was released in late May from five years of captivity by a group linked to the Taliban in exchange for five Guantanamo detainees. Instead of being seen as resounding good news, the reaction was surprisingly mixed from the political types — any teevee airtime is good teevee airtime.
On June 30th, President Obama began his six months of foreplay on the immigration quagmire culminating after the midterm elections with an announcement of finally addressing a weigh point for about five of the eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the country. It’s a start.
Also on June 30th, the Supreme Court in tortured logic, ruled that some companies can refuse insurance coverage for contraceptives based upon legally unquestioned religious objections. Another victory for crusty old white guys making decisions about what happens in bedrooms.
On July 17th, Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, dies after a white police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, puts him in a chokehold. A death that is caught on video. Garner’s death is later ruled a homicide by the New York medical examiner.
August 2nd saw the arrival of the first Ebola patent. Dr. Kent Brantly came back to the U.S. for treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Dr. Brantly was the first of the brave medical workers who volunteered to serve the poor in west African nations suffering from an uncontrolled outbreak of the disease. Dr. Brantly’s arrival heralded a new-found medical expertise in the political know-nothings who currently populate Congress.
On August 9th, eighteen-year old, unarmed Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri. His body was left to lay in the street for 4 hours and it was left to his mother — his mother — to finally cover his body with a blanket she retrieved from her home. Days of unrest followed.
On October 16th, in a show in Philadelphia, comedian Hannibal Buress criticized Bill Cosby and his “smuggest old black man persona,” and says, “Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches.” More than 20 women have come forward — many for the second time before anyone paid attention to the claims against the good Dr. Huxtable. Cosby has not been charged with a crime.
November brought the midterm elections and the Republican party won a majority of seats in the House and the Senate to take control of Congress.
Between November 24th and December 3rd, two grand juries, one in Ferguson, Missouri, the other in Staten Island, refused to indict either police officer in the deaths of Michael Brown or Eric Garner. More unrest followed.
After five years of review and political hand-to-hand combat, on December 9th the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the post-911 era. By using CIA documents and memoranda, it reveals the CIA tortured detainees.
Throughout the year, ISIS appalled civilization with the video beheadings of captured hostages.
Let’s connect a few dots in this matrix.
When it comes to the epidemic of young men of color being killed in our streets by agents of the government, we have repeatedly seen those who are asked to be accountable for the actions suddenly cloak themselves in victimhood and remarkably the dead victims were held accountable for their own deaths.
Two shameless, self-promoting prosecutors, who through their political cowardice failed to do their sworn duty, set back race relations to somewhere just beyond the era of Bull Connor.
It was a year where the ravages of Ebola were covered on the pages of newspapers where car ads dwarfed any mention of the gruesome nature of the disease until a volunteer health care worker came home ill. Only then did we care enough to understand the harsh realities facing thousands in west Africa.
2014 was another year in the march toward nihilism where fact isn’t fact unless it is exactly what you believe it should be, where science isn’t science unless it supports a preconceived notion, and where opinion substitutes for truth.
It was a year where both political parties have learned the lesson that political sabotage works. It was a year where doing nothing in the face of lingering political and economic problems can pay dividends at the ballot box. It was a year where political gridlock became an art form.
For me, the most troubling connection between events and response is the collective “yawn” we exhibited when it came to our previously held ethics. Whether it be the botched ritualized killing of capital punishment, young men being killed in our streets, the ISIS beheadings, or the systematic torture of detainees many of whom were there by virtue of mistaken identity, it seems 2014 was a year when our collective morality gene went dormant. Many politicians struggled to rationalize their indifference, but in the long run the indifference may prove to be the greater struggle.
For me, 2014 was a year where the collective zeitgeist was one of profound indifference to what had been heretofore a well-settled morality. What we may find is that overcoming the evil from which this indifference sprouts may not be as difficult as eradicating the indifference itself.
What are your takeaways from 2014? Feel free to steer the conversation in any direction.
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