The summer of our discontent

MSNBC host Chris Hayes described it perfectly. After news broke of Robin Williams's suicide he wrote: "This summer is just one goddamned terrible thing after another." I couldn't agree more.

Despite the two large windows in my office it is dark in here today. This is rare; it's usually the brightest room in the house. But today the sky is filled with varying shades of gray, and dark clouds spew rain and lightning. This weather is expected to remain through tomorrow and since it matches my mood I guess I can't complain.

To echo Hayes, this has been a terrible summer, and the death of the actor has punctuated the awfulness with grief. His genius indelibly marked multiple generations of Americans and his departure at a relatively young age—we thought we would have him around for so much longer—has shocked us into an unfamiliar shared reality; we look up from our electronic devices and discover we all are deeply saddened. More than 24 hours after his death, #RIPRobinWilliams is still trending on Twitter and new tributes are coming in faster than anyone can read them.

But the terribleness did not begin and won't end with the suicide of Robin Willliams. In the last few months humanity has leapt from one horrific crisis to the next so quickly that we barely comprehend the problem before another one confronts us, and no amount of Googling will provide the answers.

On my own list of terrible things this season I count the rise of ISIL and their accompanying brutality; the disaster that is Iraq; the kidnapping of nearly 300 girls in Nigeria; the terrible Ebola outbreak, and the continuing outrage that is Gaza. Closer to home is the killing two days ago of a young, unarmed Michael Brown in Missouri by an armed but unnamed policeman (who should be in jail but instead is on paid leave). And if all this hasn't dragged you into the depths of despair, consider our do-nothing Congress.

Still. I find hope in this worldwide outpouring of love and grief for Robin Williams. I imagine that even among ISIL, or the Nigerian kidnappers, there are those who loved his movies and regret his passing. If we could only bottle this brief sharing, this fleeting awareness of our commonality to create a vaccine against separateness, maybe we could find peace. Unrealistic, I know. But as Robin once said, "What's right is what's left when everything is wrong."