If there were such a thing as a Hall Of Fame Of Suck, the year 2014 would not only win first-ballot admission, it would have its very own wing.
Consider this abridged butcher’s bill:
In January, a teenaged gunman named Darion Aguilar opened fire in a Maryland mall, killing two before killing himself. In West Virginia, a storage tank containing a toxic chemical ruptured, pouring massive quantities of poison into the Elk River, which is part of the Mississippi River watershed. Some 300,000 residents were left without clean drinking water for weeks, and the ecosystem of the river was obliterated.
In February, the Ebola outbreak began in Africa, eventually killing more than 7,000 people and infecting more than 20,000 others.
In March, Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared over the Gulf of Thailand with 239 souls on board. It was never found, and the US “news” media had a ghoulish field day for weeks on end. A building exploded in New York City, killing eight. At the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, a drunk driver bulldozed into a crowd, killing two and injuring more than 20. An oil barge in Galveston Bay collided with another ship and spilled a fair budget of the million gallons of crude oil it was carrying. Protests erupted in Albuquerque after video showing police killing a homeless man surfaced.
In April, the Boko Haram terrorist group abducted nearly 300 girls from a Nigerian school. A Korean ferry capsized, killing 304 people, most of them high school students. A gunman named Ivan Lopez opened fire at Fort Hood, killing three people before killing himself. The Supreme Court, by a vote of 5-4, gutted even more campaign finance regulations. At Franklin Regional High School in Pennsylvania, a 16-year-old named Alex Hribal ran wild with two knives and stabbed 21 people. Cliven Bundy and his anti-government derangement gained the admiration and adoration of right-wing militias and media outlets all over the country because he didn’t feel like paying his grazing fees. A Nazi named Frazier Miller, Jr. shot up a Jewish community center in Kansas, killing three. Georgia gleefully passed its “Guns Everywhere” bill. The FCC announced its intention to destroy net neutrality.
In May, Boko Haram killed about 300 people when they attacked Gamboru Ngala in the dead of night. Other Nigerian terrorists set off bombs in Jos and killed 118 people. The scandal at the Veterans Administration exploded. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, Elliot Rodger stabbed three students to death and shot three others to death, injuring 13 more before killing himself; he did it because he couldn’t get a date, according to his manifesto, and his misogynist rant became a soothing balm for idiots everywhere who think men are oppressed.
In June, the Sunni militant group ISIL began an offensive to take Baghdad, and thrust the United States back into the endless Iraq war. A gunman named Aaron Ybarra shot three people at Seattle Pacific University, killing one. Jerad and Amanda Miller shot and killed two cops in a Las Vegas restaurant, killed another person at a local Walmart, before being gunned down themselves by law enforcement, all in the name of the “revolution” they wanted to start. Jared Michael Padgett, age 15, opened fire at his Oregon high school, killing one student and wounding a teacher before killing himself; it was the 74th school shooting since the Sandy Hook massacre. The Supreme Court struck down the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, allowing Hobby Lobby to mansplain to women why they don’t need the Pill because Jesus, or something.
In July, after the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers, followed by the revenge-killing of a Palestinian teenager, Israel launched an offensive against Gaza that cost the lives of more than 2,000 Palestinians and 71 Israelis. In Ukraine, Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was shot down by a missile, killing all 298 on board; witnesses reported that bodies rained out of the sky for miles around. Over a five-day period in Chicago, 82 people were shot, 14 of them fatally. American health worker Patrick Sawyer died of Ebola in Nigeria, and the US “news” media ramped up the panic machine. The Director of the CIA admitted to spying on the Senate in order to obtain the then un-released torture report; for this astonishing breach of law, there were no consequences.
In August, a police officer named Darren Wilson fatally shot an unarmed Black teenager named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and all Hell broke loose. The United States started dropping bombs on Iraq, again. Robin Williams killed himself in California. Photojournalist James Foley was beheaded on camera by ISIL militants in Iraq, unleashing a torrent of rabid irrationality from the right-wing and its media lackeys, who tried to convince us that ISIL was going to conquer the United States; all they really wanted was for the US to go back to war again.
In September, ISIL militants in Iraq beheaded another journalist named Steven Sotloff, prompting President Obama to fling even more US “military advisers” into Iraq. Right-wing survivalist Eric Frein shot up a Pennsylvania State Trooper barracks, killing one trooper and critically wounding another before melting into the woods for weeks. A Florida grandfather slaughtered his daughter and his six grandchildren. Alton Nolan cut the head off a co-worker at a food processing plant in Oklahoma after being fired. The first case of Ebola in the United States appeared in Dallas, and the panic party began in earnest.
In October, a 14-year-old kid in Washington shot four fellow students to death before killing himself. Zale Thompson took a hatchet to two New York City police officers before they shot him to death.
In November, the Republican Party, despite enjoying the lowest congressional approval ratings in the history of the universe, won control of the Senate and increased its control of the House. President Obama authorized sending more than 1,500 troops to Iraq, and ISIL responded by beheading American aid worker Peter Kassig. Charles Manson got a marriage license. Buffalo got eight feet of snow, because climate change isn’t happening. Texas approved a plan to teach students from textbooks that say Jesus Christ wrote the Constitution while riding on the back of a dinosaur. Darren Wilson was not indicted for shooting Michael Brown, in one of the most farcical grand jury proceedings in the annals of jurisprudence, and more riots erupted in Ferguson. Bill Cosby, one of the most beloved actors and comedians of his time, was accused of being a rapist by almost 30 women.
In December, the Senate finally released its torture report, which contained detailed horrors that beggar description, opening yet another round of flaccid discussion on why the perpetrators have never once seen the inside of a courtroom. Bradley Stone killed six people in Pennsylvania before killing himself. Another grand jury refused to indict NYPD officers Daniel Pantaleo and Justin Damico in the clearly-videotaped strangulation death of Eric Garner, and the national rage over police brutality and racism grew by orders of magnitude. Not long after, Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and killed two NYPD officers before killing himself. In a despicable act of self-importance, police officers turned their backs on the Mayor of New York during one of the services for the fallen officers, thus joining the Westboro Baptist Church in becoming the only other group in the US with the gall to hold a political protest at a funeral.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, Shirley Temple, Sid Caesar, Harold Ramis, Mickey Rooney, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Maya Angelou, Casey Kasem, Tony Gwynn, Horace Silver, Bobby Womack, Paul Mazursky, James Garner, James Brady, Lauren Bacall, Jackie Cain, Ben Bradlee, Tom Menino and Joe Cocker all died.
And one of my best friends, Brian, also died out of absolutely nowhere in November. He was the soul and spirit of our group of friends, three times my roommate since 1994, and his absence from my life, from this world, is an open wound I doubt will ever fully heal.
Strangely enough, when I think about every terrible thing that scarred this long year, I also think of Brian, but not in the way you might assume. See, I do not believe in death. Brian the man is gone from us, but knowing him made me a better person. He planted a seed within me, and by being the better person he helped to make me, I plant that seed in others: my friends, my family, and especially my little daughter. In this way, Brian and every other person who planted seeds go on, and on, and on, spreading from person to person, from relationship to relationship, and those seeds reap a mighty harvest that makes the world entire a little bit of a better place.
In this way, my friend Brian, along with everyone else who has been lost to us, are eternal. I find that to be a tremendous comfort.
This is the time for New Year’s resolutions, and I have a request of you: plant that seed wherever you find fertile soil. Be that better person. Help to gentle the cold brutality of this hard world within reach of your arm. Let us not do 2014 ever again. It is in the rear-view mirror now, finally. Let’s try to keep it there.
Happy New Year.