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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 7:39 am | Fair 42º


Jamie Stiehm: ​A Bittersweet Goodbye to the Summer of 2017

Summer’s lease has all too short a date, Shakespeare said, and ain’t that the truth. Sept. 22 brought the first day of fall, the autumnal equinox. The Jewish New Year is also upon us. Happy sweet 5778.

Cicadas are still singing, but they won’t be for long. The days are getting shorter; the nights are falling faster. And the garden knows it, too. The black-eyed Susans have only their black eyes left. Only the cleome and cosmos are going strong in September. Before long, children will be jumping in crunchy piles of leaves.

What a summer it’s been. Few will forget the hard rains of Hurricane Harvey, causing a biblical flood in Houston. The fierce winds of Hurricane Irma were not far behind, striking South Florida. As if Mother Nature had something strong to say: “Now do you believe in climate change?”

Of course, natural hurricanes are nothing next to the president of the United States threatening to destroy another country on the world stage. This was at the same time he hinted he would insult other Western democracies in ditching the Iran nuclear treaty.

That strange performance was a first at the United Nations — you can’t take President Donald Trump anywhere.

Americans pretty much knew that. We just hoped he would act nice in front of the company, like a leader of the free world.

The change of seasons made me realize Trump has turned things upside down for a full cycle. He was elected last fall and inaugurated in the winter, greeted by the largest street march in history.

His rash tweets and angry actions — such as firing FBI director James Comey — colored the spring and summer sky a darker shade of blue.

Sleepy August delivered the Charlottesville, Va., race riot, where a female activist lost her life over a Robert E. Lee Confederate statue. That tragedy shook the nation and the scenic college town, where Virginians thought, “It can’t happen here.”

Yes, rage and hate can come to town. Human rights are fragile these days. When Trump defended the rioters, saying both sides of the protest had “very fine people,” something snapped. A case of cognitive dissonance swept the land. American presidents don’t talk like this.

And now it’s the autumn sun again. It rises over a scarred political landscape, deeply cleft in a new civil war where the coasts and New England are on one side of the divide — and the South and the midsection on the other. Trump campaigned on making angry (white) people angrier — and that’s how he governs, driving wedges farther apart.

Maybe it’s because I was born in July that I love summer and hate to see it go. When its light fades to night, it seems like a small death.

Goodbye to fresh corn, blueberries, sprigs of mint. Goodbye to the gleaming outdoor city pool in Washington, D.C., where I hear French and German, along with British accents. John F. Kennedy played softball here as a senator. The thirst for lemonade will fade and apple cider will take its place at the farmers market.

The woman who lost to Trump by an elephant’s eye, Hillary Clinton burst back onto the public scene on the cusp of summer and fall, with her new book, What Happened.

On the contrary, former President Barack Obama is making his million-dollar mark on Wall Street, giving speeches for $400,000 each. He’s keeping a low profile otherwise, like the cool cat he is. He has another memoir to pen on an island. But he sent a postcard: Sorry things are going to the dogs, folks.

Coming from California, I was once under the impression that life was one long summer. And it didn’t seem so special. Now I know each season has a mood and a reason that sets off the others in a design that feels complete.

I’ll get into a swing — an autumn rhythm — with a bit of time. A new beginning beckons each of us. Washington is hoping for a harvest of Russian investigation findings from special counsel Robert Mueller. As if democracy depends upon it, sir.

Nobody will forget the summer of ’17 in a hurry.

Jamie Stiehm writes about politics, culture and history as a weekly Creators Syndicate columnist and regular contributor to U.S. News & World Report. Follow her on Twitter: @jamiestiehm. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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