Martin Schram: Summer ends with nightmare news

By Martin Schram

Summer traditionally ends in a most un-august manner, lulling us lazily and newslessly into a faux placidity. Somehow it always ends immediately after Labor Day with the eruption of a back-to-the-grindstone mentality.

But not the summer of ’21. It was just the opposite of all that. Suddenly, in August, our Great News Funnels began gushing torrents of terrible news of all sorts, all at once. It all ran together and you couldn’t tell where one godawful nightmare ended and the others began.

America the Superpower lost its second war, half a world away. This time the USA’s forces were outlasted if not outfought by Afghanistan’s Taliban terrorist forces. They were the same Taliban that infamously beat and subjugated women; the same Taliban that gave sanctuary to al-Qaida evildoers who attacked our homeland 20 years ago on 9/11.

We saw panicked Afghan citizens trying to flee to escape the Taliban: an ISIS-K suicide bomber killed some 170 of them — and 13 U.S. troops who were trying to help them.

We saw panicked American citizens trying to save their families from the perils of Mother Nature.

America the Beautiful was suddenly being devastated simultaneously by drought-caused wildfires and storm-caused floods. Rural towns were leveled, world famous cities were inundated, people were killed. First responders were fighting to save lives. Hundreds of billions of dollars of damage was inflicted by record temperatures, rainfall and flood levels that were being called our planet’s worst-ever climate change crises.

And all the while, America found itself trapped, yet again, in a new surge of the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant — a surge that grew because almost one-third of Americans had refused to get vaccinated and many Republican governors opposed mandating mask-wearing.

While our politicos debated vaccines and masks, our news screens were inundating us with videos of unspeakable horrors that transcend politics. West Coast villages burned to the ground. New York City’s subway stairways looked like Niagara Falls.

On windows and rooftops in Queens and in New Jersey we saw flash flood victims seemingly trying to decide if they could make their way through surging water-filled streets or wait for rowboat rescuers. TV anchors were saying something about “row versus wade” — but no, that turned out to be some breaking news about another very different nightmare change event.

Just before midnight Sept. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court — in a stunning 5-4 vote — announced that it had abandoned its duty to protect the constitutional rights of women to obtain abortions in accordance with the court’s famous ruling in the case known as Roe versus Wade. The court refused to block enforcement of a Texas abortion law that Justice Sonia Sotomayor called, in her dissenting opinion, “a flagrantly unconstitutional law.”

The Texas law made illegal all abortions — including in cases of rape or incest — after the sixth week of pregnancy, which is before many women even realize they are pregnant. The law adopted an unprecedented vigilante method of enforcement. It authorized all private citizens to in effect become bounty hunters and sue for up to $10,000 anyone who helps a woman obtain an illegal abortion — for example the Uber driver who takes them to an abortion clinic. Sotomayor’s opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, compellingly contended that “a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.” That majority included all three justices appointed by Donald Trump. But Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the minority.

After days of seeing the disillusioned expressions of young Afghan women who felt betrayed at being abandoned to live again under Taliban oppressors, we recognized the same expressions on Texas women who were being interviewed on TV. We were witnessing the de facto Talibanization of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Most of America’s newsmakers seemed to understand this tragic summer of nightmarish news was no time for petty political ploys. Most but not quite all — for one formerly prominent newsmaker apparently remains eager to remind us of his flair for never being underdone by even our lowest common denominators. Just after Labor Day, former President 45 made it back into our news — in his familiar way.

Donald Trump, who last year made a deal with the Taliban to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, spread the word that he has begun consoling some Gold Star families whose loved ones were just killed in that Kabul airport suicide bombing. Trump made public several messages he sent to Shana Chappell, mother of 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui and a Trump supporter.

“If I were President,” Trump wrote to her, “your wonderful and beautiful son Kareem would be with you now, and so would the sons and daughters of others.”

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