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4 News Stories That Probably Make the Rest of the World Think Americans Are Gun-Crazed Bigots

A future person reading the newspapers from 2012 would surely conclude that Americans were a bigoted, gun-crazed bunch.

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We also saw the U.S. media tending to give more airtime to “white, glossy female athletes to the exclusion of the women of color on their teams,” as s.e. smith notes over at Global Comment.

NBC and its commentators scored low on the gender equality scale as well, inventing bitter rivalries between women where there may been nothing but healthy competition. (See: the manufactured narrative about Russian gymnasts being over-emotional “divas.”) And don’t even get me started on the coverage of female beach volleyball players.

The women of the U.S. Olympic team kicked serious butt this year. If they had competed as a country of their own, they would have tied for second place in the number of gold medals earned and came in fourth in medals overall. They – and all the women at the Olympics this year – deserved better.

3. Chick-fil-A

The Chick-fil-A story is one that just won’t die. Day after day, week after week, it reminds us that a large number of our fellow Americans were willing to spend hours standing in line for fast-food chicken sandwiches to prove how much they don’t want gay people to get married.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the story kicked off when Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told a Christian newspaper that his company “operate[s] on biblical principles” and is “very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit.” This elicited both criticism from LGBTQ rights groups, which had targeted Chick-fil-A for its anti-gay attitudes many times before, and praise from members of the Christian Right who are against same-sex marriage and other civil rights for LGBTQ Americans. That praise culminated in the much-ballyhooed “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” which was concocted by Mike Huckabee and others to urge “traditional family” supporters to buy piles of sandwiches and waffle fries. For America and freedom. Or something.

Although the U.S. has seen a number of LGBTQ advances recently – new states recognizing same-sex marriage, a majority of Americans now supporting that right – this saga demonstrates that we still have a long way to go before LGBTQ Americans have the legal rights and the respect that they deserve. Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day participants may not speak for the majority of us, but they’re still around. And they sure are loud.

4. Healthcare reform goes before the Supreme Court

We learned a lot of things about the state of our nation in the frenzied days immediately before and after the Supreme Court issued its decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. We learned, in many cases not for the first time:

--That some media outlets care more about being first than being right. (CNN and Fox News were in such a rush to report the news of SCOTUS' decision that they both got the news wrong.)

--That Republicans would rather have a political “win” than see thousands of Americans gain access to affordable healthcare.

--That John Roberts might possess a shred of compassion.

Above all else, we learned that we will get much-needed healthcare reform, even if the reforms aren’t perfect in every way.

The healthcare saga and other major stories of the summer show us that, however much progress we have made as a society, we have many battles left to fight.

Lauren Kelley is the activism and gender editor at AlterNet and a freelance journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in Salon, Time Out New York, the L Magazine, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter.