Fear and terrorism, landmark court decisions, and the beginning of one of the oddest political seasons in recent memory marked 2015.
Overseas, the Syrian refugee crisis, in which innocent families fled the fighting in Syria, reached a peak in the summer of 2015. Refugee camps overflowed with families as thousands ran for their lives to Europe. The countries of the European Union vowed to take in as many as possible, although there were protests and backlash in some countries.
Two separate attacks in Paris, France — one in January at a satirical newspaper in which 12 people were gunned down, and the other in a coordinated attack in three different locations in November that killed 129 — increased concerns that Europe had become vulnerable to terrorism. The terrorist attacks overseas lead to serious national debates on this side of the Atlantic about security and the nature of threats to our shores. Presidential candidates and governors (including Indiana’s Mike Pence) advocated barring Syrian refugees from settling in the U.S. despite having no evidence that Syrian refugees were responsible for the attacks.
ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) gained power through increased terror attacks throughout the world, demolishing ancient sites, annexing fellow jihadist-terrorists Boko Haram in Nigeria, and beheading “spies.” Responsible for the Paris attacks, and several suicide bombings in Beirut, ISIL has become a major terrorist threat in the world.
Russia and the Ukraine continued their conflict through 2015, despite a cease fire early in the year. Russia also began air strikes against ISIL in Syria. A Russian plane was downed by Turkey, causing Putin to verbally lash out and vow retaliation.
Nepal suffered two major earthquakes — a 7.8 magnitude in April that caused over 9,000 deaths in Nepal, India, China and Bangladesh, and a 7.3 magnitude that resulted in 218 deaths in the area.
The United States saw a shooting attack in San Bernadino in December that killed 14 plus the two attackers — one of over 350 mass shootings in 2015. The couple responsible for the attack had been radicalized in the U.S., spurring fears that home-grown terrorism was on the rise.
The Republican presidential field became very crowded in the run-up to the 2016 election, with up to 15 candidates competing for the nomination. The popularity of “outsiders” Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump stumped political analysts who thought that Jeb Bush as a shoe-in for the nomination. Despite highly controversial statements by the candidates, poll numbers for those outsiders continue to rise. In the Democratic camp, former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton found herself confronted with a surprising rival in self-declared Democrat-socialist Bernie Sanders.
A landmark decision by the Supreme Court came down in favor of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, bringing the controversy to a decisive close.
Here in Indiana, Governor Mike Pence and an overwhelmingly Republican Assembly created a firestorm with the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Business leaders, civil rights advocates, LGBT rights activists, and citizens of all stripes were enraged by the bill which would have allowed businesses to deny service to individuals based on the owner’s religious beliefs. The governor passed a “fix” to the bill that clarified that it would not allow discrimination; however, the damage was done. Prior to RFRA, Pence had been mentioned as a possible Republican presidential candidate — talk that stopped abruptly when the controversy hit the national media.
In Indianapolis, crime was on the minds of citizens. Homicides in 2015 were up, and it seemed every day brought more bad news about non-fatal shootings, home invasions, and “takeover” robberies of bars and restaurants. IMPD has stated that much of the crime wave is due to an explosive increase in heroin use in the city.
Some of the notables lost in 2015 include authors Colleen McCullough and E. L. Doctorow, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, singers Lesley Gore, Cilla Black, and Lynn Anderson, actor Leonard Nimoy, architect and designer Michael Graves, writer Terry Pratchett, Nobel winner Gunter Grass, singer Ben E. King and blues great B.B. King. “A Beatutiful Mind” John Forbes Nash died in a car accident. Actors Christopher Lee, Omar Sharif, Dick Van Patten, Ron Moody passed this year. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, the wrestler, died. Batgirl Yvonne Craig was mourned, as were neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks, Wes Craven, basketball great Moses Malone, and the great Yogi Berra. American politico and actor Fred Thompson passed away, as well as musician Allen Toussaint. Former Chancellor of West Germany Helmut Schmidt died this year as well.
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