All over our social media feeds, everyone is dubbing 2016 the worst year. But was it really? Frankly, I think the reasoning for why it was the worst is hyperbolic. The statement is mainly tongue-in-cheek, citing the deaths of famous celebrities such as Prince, David Bowie and Carrie Fisher as the reason why the year was so horrible. The reactions to the deaths of some of our favorite stars are relatively harmless, but reveal something about the country’s favoritism toward the famous and those immediately in our consciousness.

At the end of December, Fisher, of “Star Wars” fame, passed away at the age of 60 from a heart attack. The outpouring of support and well-wishes has been extended to her family, co-stars and even her dog. There’s nothing wrong with this. It may seem trivial to some, but I couldn’t imagine how I would feel if one of my favorite entertainers passed away. What may seem strange or unimportant to some means something dear to another. Some of these people had a personal relationship with Fisher, and it is appropriate to grieve immediately after her death.

The problem lies within the discrepancy many have when grieving over loss of life. This isn’t a critique of political correctness, but rather an observation. 2016 was a year of multiple tragedies across the globe, which made it incredibly saddening from many standpoints. The year can’t be deemed as bad solely because beloved celebrities passed away. There may be a lack of personal connection, but there should be equal acts of empathy for those who have lost their lives in Aleppo, for example, as well as individuals like Fisher.

As of right now, if an alien came to our planet, they would probably observe that the masses deem celebrities as more important than others. There are far more stories online and topics of discussion surrounding celebrity deaths and calamities than those of regular people. It’s just odd that tons of attention goes toward one person for a while when there are many other groups of people that need support as well.

I own up that I haven’t shown equal amounts of concern and grief in these situations, either. I texted my girlfriend something sad about Fisher because we both love “Star Wars,” but showed no sign of sadness or support for those oppressed and in danger overseas. This selective caring made me question what these actions say about me as an individual and our Western society as a whole.

Examples like these of favoritism and apathy toward others could result from a lack of coverage, personal connection or care toward the affected. It’s important that we continue to realize that all lives matter (not in the way that opposes Black Lives Matter, but in a fashion that doesn’t dismiss the oppression of any group of people). I had friends point out this discrepancy in news coverage to me, citing that there was constant coverage and changing of Facebook profile pictures when the terrorist attack happened at the Batalan Concert Hall in France, but not as many cameras or grieving statuses in response to violence in the Middle East. The United States as a government — and even its citizens — can be prone to care more about its allies and its own than those it isn’t closely connected to.

We must not forget about the disadvantaged and endangered both on U.S. soil and abroad. We can show our support and share our grief for those people on social media, by volunteering, donating or reminding others of what is going on outside of our immediate worlds. Again, there’s nothing wrong with being sad over the death of our favorite celebrities, and while they may have touched our lives more than an average citizen thousands of miles away, every life is equally important and should be treated as such. It’s just that many lives aren’t given the same amount of limelight or recognition.

We can still show our love for the beautiful lyricism of Bowie that we’ll never hear live again, the spunk of Fisher, and post memes of how Betty White and other elderly celebrities should be protected from death for the whole year. But at the same rate, the people of Flint who still don’t have clean water, the citizens of Aleppo who have seen their homes crumble, and tragedies that affect our friends and family should be recognized with at least the same amount of effort.

Chris Crowder can be reached at ccrowd@umich.edu. 

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