themcglynn.com

31 Dec

Year In Pictures

NYT

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THIS was the year of the great unraveling, with international orders and borders challenged or broken, with thousands of deaths, vast flows of migrants and terrorist attacks on some of the most cherished symbols of civilization, both Western and Muslim.

Palmyra and Paris (twice). Aleppo, Homs, Kobani and even San Bernardino, Calif. The Syrian war grinds on, half the prewar population displaced or gone, and the Islamic State fills a vacuum created by sectarian struggle and Western fatigue.

The conflict spurred the migrants lapping against the shores of bourgeois Europe, a million or more, huddled in small boats or crammed into airless trucks, abused by human traffickers, thousands dead on the journey, prompting both empathy and backlash.

Just look. The year is here.

The outrages of Boko Haram and the Shabab in Africa. The abuse of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. The war in Ukraine and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. New tensions in the skies over the Baltics and a Russian plane shot down by a NATO country for the first time in decades.

The ruins still in Gaza, a year after a brutal and inconclusive war, and Israel hunkering down in a region losing its compass. Even the energetic secretary of state, John Kerry, has given up on serious negotiations for Mideast peace.

So much uncertainty, anxiety, anomie, so many civilian victims: A crazed German pilot flew his plane into the French Alps; a Russian plane was destroyed over Sinai by what seemed to have been a bomb; attackers with automatic weapons killed 130 people in Paris in restaurants, a stadium and a concert hall.

Even the Earth seemed slightly unhinged — the ice caps melting, sheep stuck in the smog of Beijing, huge snowstorms and floods, a major earthquake in Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries.

And in the United States, it was a year of anger and protest against police brutality, with racial unrest ripping apart Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo. A massacre of black worshipers in a church in Charleston, S.C. Drought and terror in California, blows to the myth of paradise.

Presidential politics took on a carnival atmosphere during the pre-primary season, with an amazing cast of would-be successors to a grayer, grumpier Barack Obama. Bernie Sanders, the sort-of socialist from Vermont by way of Brooklyn, was giving Hillary Clinton a run, at least, for her mounds of campaign money. Donald J. Trump thrilled, amused and horrified, depending on your point of view, with his populist fulminations, his hairdo and his narcissism.

But not all of the memorable events of the year were about loss, violence and terrorism.

The changing climate brought a historic if relatively toothless deal to cut carbon emissions and help the poorest countries cope.

The massacre in Charleston helped lower the Confederate flag over the South Carolina State House. The Supreme Court made same-sex marriages legal throughout the land.

The United States and the United Nations Security Council finally reached a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions, promising some sanctions relief and opening a still-uncertain path toward a Syrian settlement.

In another resolution of a longstanding diplomatic sore, the United States recognized Cuba. And Myanmar’s military government seemed at last to recognize the political victory of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who stuck to her principles through decades of house arrest.

Meanwhile, American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, Serena Williams nearly won the Grand Slam and the New York Mets nearly (well, sort of nearly) won a World Series.

Just look. The year is here.

STEVEN ERLANGER

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