2016: Famous or Infamous?

Last year, our world was perpetually split on every issue that we faced. Lately, it seems no one can agree. But there was one common theme that brought everyone together in the final moments of 2016: hatred. People all around were drawn closer by their common enemy, the year of 2016. While it sounds like an awful link between people and a bit of an exaggeration about our past year, 2016 has really been a deserving foe. While originally I wanted to shock everyone and blow everyone’s opinions of 2016 out of the water with the positives that nobody wanted to acknowledge, I soon realized that it wasn’t possible. 2016 was actually a destructive year, both nationally and globally. Britain finalized and voted on their plans to leave the European Union sending the rest of the world into a panic and a state of uncertainty of what will come of this. In our own nation, we dealt with two controversial presidential nominees ending with either a triumph or a loss, depending on one’s political views. Not to mention many of our citizens turned to social media to vocalize their grief over the death of the Cincinnati zoo gorilla, Harambe. So when you hear people say, “2016 was awful,” there are too many reasons why they are right.

Every year has their share of losses, but 2016 took too many influential artists and actors. The year claimed one of its first victims with the death of David Bowie on January 10th. Later on, stars such as Gene Wilder, Muhammed Ali, Prince, Christina Grimmie, Alan Rickman, and George Michael were also taken from us. The year ended with the death of beloved actress Debbie Reynolds and her daughter, Carrie Fisher, who portrayed Princess Leia in the Star Wars saga. While 2016 hasn’t been the worst year for celebrity deaths in terms of numbers, the lives that last year claimed were extremely important and inspirational global figures whose lives helped many deal with their own personal struggles. Carrie Fisher, who struggled with Bipolar disorder, proved that mental illness doesn’t have to dampen the life that one wants to live. She inspired people to write and share about their own mental illness. Fisher also demonstrated her support for feminism, on and off screen. Her death was a blow to many who were battling addiction and mental illness, just like she did.

Pop icon from the 1970’s, David Bowie, shattered gender stereotypes and gave people struggling with sexuality and conformity a figure to admire. His gender fluidity and openness about his sexuality on stage at a time when these things were not accepted gave strength to people who struggle with it today. Boxer Muhammad Ali’s confidence influenced many to work hard and achieve their goals. He was a figure who advocated for racial equality and his personality made him shine outside of his boxing career. These are only a few of the major influences that 2016 has claimed. The loss of these influential figures and sources of inspiration for many individuals made 2016 all the more difficult.

Another prevalent topic of 2016 was violence. Last year was record breaking in terms of public shootings and terrorism. According to a study done by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the amount of violent crimes nationwide has increased in the USA. It seemed that too often last year Facebook was asking us to change our profile pictures to support victims of gun violence in public places. Police officers killed and were killed. Parties were fatally crashed. According to the Washington Post, as of July 8th of last year, there were 5 times as many victims of mass shootings as there were in 2015. In Chicago alone, there were 762 homicides in 2016. This amount is up 58% from 2015. The Global Peace Index hit its lowest point in 25 years in 2016. Conflicts in the Middle East have increased greatly. The growing influence of Islamic extremism, terrorist organizations like ISIS and the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis have shaken up the Middle East this year as well as the rest of the world. The fighting and acts of terrorism have put a strain on surrounding countries, such as Turkey, and also pressured European countries to let in refugees seeking shelter. Many of the terrorist attacks that have occurred this year have been claimed by ISIS. Bus attacks in Nice, night club shootings in Orlando, attacks in Brussels, Egypt, Yemen, Kuwait and Turkey. Shootings, bombings, beheadings. 2016 has displaced, killed and injured many due to terror and violence.

While 2016 was a tough year, it wasn’t all bad. There were many events in the world that are worth mentioning to lighten the mood about last year. The smash Broadway musical Hamilton was brought to light and its popularity (and ticket prices) skyrocketed. Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar for his movie The Revenant. Pokemon Go allowed people to get moving with their favorite characters. The Cubs finally broke the curse and won the World Series. The Giant Panda isn’t endangered anymore. Netflix debuted a new downloading feature, making it possible to binge on more TV without internet connection. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge paid off and major breakthroughs were made in ALS research.

The growing power and influence of the Internet has highlighted the worst of 2016. It poked fun at the election and the horror that people felt towards both of the two candidates. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton battled in three presidential debates, with both candidates talking more about the conviction and the past of the nominees, not as much of the issues and the future of our country. The Internet ran with it and talked about voting for the fly that landed on Hillary’s nose during the final debate. This was when people began to discuss the hellish nature of 2016. And when one starts to compile a list of tragedy in 2016, the definition falls into place. The worst year ever. The death of the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla Harambe. The Happiest Place on Earth, Walt Disney World, was home to a fatal alligator attack that took the life of a two-year- old boy. Britain decided to leave the EU, splitting the country into those who support it and those who don’t. The election divides our own country, into those who party for President elect Donald J. Trump and those who protest him. Terrorism. Celebrity deaths. 2016 seemed to ruin the idea that our world was changing for the better. And even though we are only a few weeks into 2017, we can only hope that it’s the year that fixes everything that 2016 broke.

By Abby Owen

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