When I think of summertime, I reminisce about simpler times, a break from the norm, longer days, BBQs, family reunions, kickbacks, swimming pools, park jams, red cups, fresh kicks, waxed convertibles, “driving two miles an hour so everybody sees you,” as DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince once rapped.
The summer of 2023 felt like the summer we all wanted to believe in something again. A collective consciousness renewal of sorts, to break away from our self-obsessed “post-pandemic” strife that continues to have us more disconnected, lonely, depressed to the point of suicide, hopeless, jobless, and pessimistic about our future selves than ever.
We were eager to fall in love again instead of being ghosted on dating apps. We desperately needed the gospel, something to fuel our souls – to catch the “holy ghost” while yearning for a life that used to be. We were ready to feel that loving feeling again or at least a sense of nostalgia that made us feel like there was a possibility that everything would be okay again.
Maybe that’s why music fans flocked and traveled internationally to see Beyoncé and other massive arena shows, all while going damn near broke to see the likes of Taylor Swift, Metallica, and Morgan Wallen. Still, the FOMO of it all felt like idol worship to the point of cultish.
While everyone posted travel and festival pics on social media, remote workers were forced back to the office. Others were still on countless Zoom meetings from home, trying to separate work life from real life and suffering from too much solitude and loneliness.
Maybe that’s why we witnessed so many Americans continuing to misbehave this summer at airports, airplanes and concerts. Female artists like Cardi B, Sexyy Red, Latto, Ava Max and Bebe Rexha were all attacked by mostly male concertgoers throwing objects like bottles and cell phones at them during performances, a disgusting trend that has left many artists retaliating or canceling shows altogether out of fear for their safety.
It was also the summer former President Donald Trump turned himself into a Fulton County jail to be booked and have his mug shot photo plastered worldwide. Even though many rejoiced, that didn’t faze his most diehard supporters. They double downed on Trump as the outsider outlaw of the political system. Trump continued to be fodder for liberal comedians. However, this was no joking matter, just like the horror and hatred Americans continued to grapple with.
On the most beloved American holiday, the Fourth of July, celebrations turned into chaotic nightmares as mass shootings occurred in Philadelphia, killing five people. In Fort Worth, Texas, a shooter opened fire on a crowd of hundreds at an Independence Day festival, killing three and wounding others.
According to a CNN article published July 24, the United States has surpassed 400 mass shootings in 2023, setting the stage for a record-breaking year of gun violence without any significant federal firearm legislation on the horizon.
O’Shae Sibley, 28, a young, gay Black man, was vogueing to Beyoncé blaring from the car speakers at a Brooklyn gas station filling up a car with friends when a group of men attacked him with gay slurs. Sibley was stabbed with a knife and ultimately pronounced dead at the hospital.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the advocacy group GLADD issued a report in June of this year indicating an increase in harassment and violence against gay and transgender people, including online bullying, gatherings of armed protestors outside drag shows and bomb threats against hospitals that provide gender transition care. In the first week of June, there were 101 such incidents, more than twice the number during the same period the year before.
America is at a precipice like the extreme heat that suffocated most of the country this summer. We have been sucked into the vortex of the upside down. A parallel universe that’s not so mysterious but an absolute nightmare disguised as freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Loving thy neighbor has become a thing of the past and replaced with fear and repulsiveness of anything or anyone other than ourselves. We have lost compassion and empathy… maybe we never had it.
This summer's madness reflected precisely where we are as a society, which looks bleak. Could this be our “new normal” indefinitely? There is an Indigenous quote from Sun Bear of the Chippewa tribe that says, “I don’t think the measure of a civilization is how tall its buildings of concrete are, but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow man.”