We’re fixing to close out an eventful and contentious year: So much so, in fact, that it’s been hard to keep up.
Well, that’s life in these times. Between whiplash news cycles and social-media explosions from the internet’s volcanic abyss, even the biggest events in our shared consciousness don’t keep center stage for long.
We don’t have to wait for the next bomb to drop. It probably already dropped, while you were on vacation, or sleeping late, or hunting for your car keys. What your grandpa called a “nine days’ wonder” now gets maybe nine hours. Maybe less.
Technology enabled this rapid-fire dissemination of information, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At moments of crisis and emergency, news reaches us far more quickly than it did, even a few years ago. Social media allow all Americans to experience, and even to participate in the most significant events of our time.
But there’s just not enough bandwidth in our brains to take it all in. Keeping pace with current events is like standing under a waterfall and trying not to miss a drop, let alone keeping an eye on all the water already flowing downstream and out to a bottomless ocean of yesterday’s news.
The term “information overload” has been around since the 1960s, but anybody with a cellphone can now live it in real time. In some cases, we have already forgotten news events with impact on our lives that still isn’t clear.
So I went through the annals of ancient history — back to last January, that is — and dug out a few forgotten nuggets, events that burned as hot as the sun in 2017 before quickly fading to cold and lifeless oblivion.
It’s by no means a comprehensive list, but let’s visit some old times together:
1. The women’s marches
Millions of marchers, energy and enthusiasm, those memorable hats. What did it change? I’m not quite sure. The marchers embodied a widespread phenomenon: We have a lot of anger, and we’re trying to find something to do with it.
2. Airport protests
Americans rushed to local airports to protest the new administration’s Muslim-restricting travel ban, which is still being litigated. Among the protesters were more than 100 local lawyers who offered their services to detained travelers for free.
3. That thing that went wrong at the Oscars
“Moonlight”? “La-La Land”? Does anybody remember which was which? Next year, maybe they’d better just give everybody a trophy.
4. Doctor dragged off United Airlines flight
The forcible deplaning of a ticket-holding traveler by beefy airport security officers in Chicago sparked a brief revolt over passenger rights by downtrodden air warriors everywhere.
5. Bill O’Reilly fired
It took the “me too” movement a while to spread, but then, it involved an awful lot of people. O’Reilly’s dismissal from Fox News was among 2017s earliest inklings that even powerful people who generate a ton o’ cash for their employers and investors might not be able to get away with serial sexual harassment anymore.
6. Steve Scalise shot
A sitting member of Congress was gravely injured by a madman with a gun during a congressional baseball practice. It was a sobering shock, until fresher news intervened. The Louisiana Republican is still recovering.
7. Sean Spicer quit
He was only one among many White House personnel who came and went with dizzying speed, but we were sort of used to him, thanks to Melissa McCarthy.
8. Solar eclipse
It was a big deal. Still got those sun-gazing glasses you forked over $50 for?
9. Night of the living tweet
The president’s most outrageous statements tended to emerge via Twitter during the wee hours. Too numerous for recall, but the greatest hits included “Obama Had My Wires Tapped”; “Puerto Ricans Want Everything Done for Them” (after being left without shelter, power, medicine and transportation due to a hurricane); reporters are “Enemies of the American People”; “Bleeding Badly from a Face-Lift”; and the haunting, mysterious “Covfefe.”
10. Mass murder
Even the shortest and faultiest memory cannot have forgotten the horrifying mass shootings of innocent Americans in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas, this year. But, be honest: Can you specifically recall another mass shooting incident during 2017? Under the general definition of any shooting in which four or more people were killed or injured, not including the shooter, it happened a great deal this year — more than 300 times.
There was more, of course — much more: natural disasters, legislative battles, the terrible events in Charlottesville, Va., celebrity dramas, deaths of prominent Americans. If you can’t cite them all, don’t feel bad about it. Nobody can.
While you’re making 2018 resolutions, though, here’s one you might add: Take care of your brain. It’s going to have to process more than ever next year.
Jacquielynn Floyd is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. Readers may email her at Floydjfloyd@dallasnews.com
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