The year the cat disappeared and beheadings rose: My emotional connections to some of this year’s top stories
For me, this year was partly about the disappearance of the cat. Yes, you know. If aliens were to arrive on earth and look at social media postings they would believe cats ruled us. Social media had been for a while about funny, angry, silly, evil cats that strike a pose and clutter our email inboxes. This year, for me though, the cat went away to be replaced by evil chilling videos. Maybe these videos have been around all along.
I have come to strongly feel that hatred, violence, and plain-out evil forms and anecdotes took over our cluttered email inboxes. Everything from Ray Rice beating his then fiancée to Journalist James Foley being beheaded by ISIS to Eric Garner dying while screaming “I can’t breathe” was on a continuous video loop on cable news channels. Videos on the web took a decidedly darker turn than the ubiquitous evil kitty being snarky.
I have always been a news junkie. I used to wake up early and immediately put CNN on to catch any breaking news at that moment. Now, the news seems bleaker and the news seems more sensationalized. Videos are repeatedly shown just to enhance ratings while providing no additional content value. Why did CNN have to show the Ray Rice video every two minutes?
As I look back, I realize that I, indeed, had some connections (emotional, actual, historical) to a lot of the top news stories of the year that had been on a continuous loop for us all to see repeatedly. In that sense, how could any of us not be connected to these stories of 2014?
Here are six stories, of the many that were heart-wrenching this past year, that I connected with on deeper, personal levels.
- Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
I have a deep-seated fear of flying, despite all my business travels. When Malaysian Air MH370 disappeared without a trace, I was an itsy bitzy scared. Ok. I was very scared. I did have a light moment when I thought about what my mother would have thought of that plane’s disappearance. She definitely would have been on the side of conspirators who thought it was some kind of alien abduction and subsequent government cover-up. Nonetheless, it was frightening. It still is.
Then when Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over the Ukraine, I really felt its impact. See, that flight was shot down en route to Australia where I had just landed for the International AIDS Conference. Upon turning on my cell phone, I immediately received worried texts wondering if I was ok and if I knew anyone that had died on that flight. The first session I attended, had three empty slots due to the fact that three presenters had indeed died on that flight. The one interview clip I remember over and over again is one in which one of the friends of the deceased asked “what if the cure for AIDS died on that flight?”
- Ebola Outbreak
The Ebola outbreak has gained a foothold in West Africa this year, killing more than 7,000 people. Stupid hysteria was set in motion by news media coverage that didn’t get quite right the facts about the spread of Ebola. As someone who works in the HIV/AIDS field Ebola struck home in that the flames of fear and stigma were seemingly taken root. Those of us on the field know, that we cannot allow another disease to get so stigmatized that it puts the health of the masses at risk.
- Eric Garner couldn’t breathe
The video of Mr. Garner’s last moments on earth are heartbreaking to watch. I had to change the channels so often that I shut the television off for a few days. He screamed “I can’t breathe” more than once. He may have said it more than 10 times. When I was a young child I developed severe asthma soon after a friend’s mother died of an asthma attack. She suffered an asthma attack and the firefighters could not reach her 13th floor apartment in time. Since the elevators in the housing project were again not working. That is what would happen in the South Bronx: asthma, delayed emergency-help time, and death. I was so scared of not being able to breathe. Seeing Mr. Garner so scared just is bone-chilling.
- US-Cuba Relations
President Obama made historic changes to our U.S.-Cuba policy by restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, quite unexpectedly. I have been quite fortunate to have visited Cuba in 2010. It was for me a once in a lifetime experience and one of my two favorite trips ever (my other being Japan). The warmth of the people and the beauty of the island are how to escape when visiting there. Of course, there was propaganda there but you just look past it and soak in everything you can. I don’t know what the future holds for Cuba but I do hope to one day take my son there.
- Robin Williams’ suicide
I do not know how many people saw that coming, but I’d wager it was not many. Always laughing on the outside and inner turmoil in the inside. Mental health needs are still highly stigmatized worldwide. It is so stigmatized that even at the United Nations, a goal centered around mental health had to be couched as “well-being”.
All these stories have at their core a sense of frustration, pain and unresolved feelings rooted in social injustice, bad infrastructure and stigmatization.
This year there was also the Winter Olympics and the World Cup. I just could not get into either of the big sporting events. Although, at times, it seemed that political drama would over take the sports drama. Remember watching the scene where Luis Suarez bit his opponent. I didn’t watch the actual game play but the video was on non-stop.
Can I make a plea for cats to reign supreme next year? It could mean a less psychological daunting year ahead if cats rule. Oh my-and this is coming from a die-hard dog person.