The US in 2014, A Review

Caylyn Perry

“I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed as one city. We know this won’t be easy. It will require all that we can muster.” On January 2014, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio made this promise to his city. Here, a progressive stood with millions across the country watching, professing what everyone hoped would happen not only in New York, but also throughout the country.

In some ways 2014 was a win for progressives. As de Blasio became the 109th Mayor of New York, Colorado opened its first recreational marijuana stores. Washington moved towards greater diversity in key positions after the Senate confirmed the first female head of the Federal Reserve. Eric Holder announced in February that the Justice Department would give its employees in same-sex marriages equal protection under the law in every program it administers. In other ways 2014 was a roadblock. As polls closed on Election Day, Democrats across the country hung their heads in defeat. The incoming 114th Congress welcomes a generation of Republicans and marks the end of careers that were thought to be untouchable; Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu was one of the most shocking defeats.

Internationally, the situation was bleaker. In West Africa, thousands were infected with the Ebola virus resulting in 7,857 deaths. When the disease eventually arrived in America, the nation became aware of how outdated its protocols for dealing with possible public health crises were.

But the government struggled with more than public health this year. The United States failed once again to understand its relationship with Russia. In the last days of February, the Kremlin sent a convoy of Russian troops into Crimea, eventually annexing it despite international protest. Putin’s insistence on showing its international might proved to be a humbling moment for the West. Sanctions and heated phone calls proved ineffective because Russia is neither weak nor submissive. Unlike other countries the West has tried to punish, Russia is a world power. As a permanent member of the United Nations and nuclear state, the EU and the US will have to reevaluate their strategies for dealing with rogue powers.

Even more alarming than Putin’s invasion, however, was ISIS/ISIL’s progress in the Middle East; ISIS militants gained ground faster than any expert predicted. The counterattack led by the US and its allies presented a challenge for the Obama Administration. Hesitant to put troops back in Iraq, the President announced that airstrikes would be the appropriate response. As of now there are over 3,000 troops in Iraq.

And while troops found themselves reentering Iraq, America met troops in its own cities. Police militarization became the buzzword this year as images of tanks on main streets hit the web. In memory of Tamir Rice, Darren Hunt, Eric Garner, and more, protestors took to the streets. Unfortunately the calls for police reform were misconstrued by some and New York City made headlines once again when a civilian killed two innocent police officers on December 20th.

The moment was the climax to what has been a difficult year for the US socially, politically, and internationally. The issues of today will follow the country into 2015 and there answers may be found. Entering 2015, de Blasio’s inaugural promise still captures the hopes of Americans, but more important now are the words from his final speech of 2014. When he returned to his podium on December 27th, Mayor de Blasio pulled a line from the New Testament that leads the country into a new, uncertain year: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Image Credit: Huffington Post