Leah Devorak | Asst. Layout Editor
Last week, Britt McHenry’s name graced headlines in virtually every major American news outlet, and alongside her were articles such as “Shoe Polish Worthy of Wall Street” from The New York Times and “‘The Force Awakens’ a little more with new ‘Star Wars’ teaser” from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. So far this week, the event that’s taking over newsrooms across the country is the emigrant ship that capsized in the Mediterranean 70 miles off the coast of Libya late on April 19, causing approximately 850 North African refugees to go missing in the sea.
And in light of this newest tragedy, the vast majority of America has almost completely forgotten about the Britt McHenries and shoe-polishers of yester week. Next to a horrifying “genocide” at the hands of careless human traffickers, as CNN has dubbed it, those previously uber-important events are simply nothing more than incredibly trivial, now seeming almost laughable, which is mainly due to moral priorities but also partly because of the ever-so classic phrase “old news.”
Sure, something more dire than insults and classic films has come about, but how many of us truly only forgot last week’s top stories when we saw this week’s? Probably not many. We’re human after all; as time passes, we’re prone to forget, no matter what happens.
But then again, some things just can’t be forgotten, or rather, shouldn’t be, and mass death is one of them. From the millions of casualties in the Holocaust to the thousands on 9/11, mass human destruction simply cannot be let go. And so this capsized refugee ship, with its hundreds of passengers most likely dead, will definitely be remembered; something as tragic as that is simply impossible to forget.
But remember that blanket statements are seldom true, especially in a country where few individuals so much as even look alike. The reality of this sinking ship is that the vast majority of us will forget. We, as American citizens, will most likely not remember anything that happened between April 19-20, 2015, when April 19-20, 2016, rolls around, and it’s all due to our mainstream society.
I say this only because of the neglect Americans showed last week toward one of our country’s biggest allies, a neglect that we have also shown many times in the past. Last Thursday, April 16, marked the one year anniversary of the Sewol Ferry incident. Does that ring a bell to anyone? Probably not.
The Sewol was another mass death by boat that stemmed from workplace neglect, but instead of refugees being the victims, 250 junior students and 11 teachers from Danwon High School, as well as 215 other South Korean passengers, were killed.
It was the largest peacetime disaster in South Korean history, but who in this country woke up that Thursday morning and instantly remembered it? Even now after a brief recap, who wholeheartedly remembers that ferry? The honest truth is few, if none; even my memory of it is entirely owed to a tweet from The New York Times as well as a few pictures from two South Korean singers I follow on Instagram. But even then, I still had to do a whole day’s worth of digging just to refigure out what exactly this “Sewol” was.
It’s a bit shocking to realize that no one, including yourself, did something as simple as remember 476 prematurely lost lives. And it’s even more shocking when you realize that that same day, Europe was also remembering victims of the Holocaust. America certainly wasn’t, though.
That’s because we were too caught up in ourselves to remember, which, in the ultra-diverse and incredibly fast-paced nation that we are, isn’t hard to do. There’s just so much that is America that we simply have to pick and choose where to focus so we don’t spread ourselves too thinly and collapse. But it seems that said picking and choosing doesn’t correlate properly with the aforementioned concepts of “moral priorities” and “old news.”
Our tendency to forget other nations’ major events would be a little less chilling if we only forgot them because of other huge tragedies that were both a little more timely and a little closer to home. But that’s seldom the case, as was true last week. Sure, while Madonna nearly sucking Drake’s face off was horrifying, it definitely shouldn’t have trumped remembering three-fourths of a high school class, 11 teachers and 215 innocent others who drowned due to workplace neglect, and it definitely shouldn’t have trumped remembering the millions who died in the Holocaust.
But it did, and we should blame ourselves for letting it. While the media controls our society on the surface, it’s really the people who are at the helm, for media only put out what the people take in. We only see American celebrity news and national police brutality coverage because that’s what we’re eating up. We’re only caring about internal events, and so international tragedies are being wrongfully forgotten.
Like I said before, it’s understandable that we pick and choose, but maybe we should be picking and choosing a little differently. I mean, yes, in all reality, none of us need to care about the outside world because, as of now, what happens in our country shapes the majority of it; as the world’s biggest power, we don’t need to ever leave what happens at home. But doesn’t it seem that maybe, just maybe, we should start caring a little more? Even if only to keep others from hating us or if only to stay on top, shouldn’t we at least try? Because there’s important stuff that we’re missing, and one day, if we keep on letting it sneak by, it will turn around to bite us in our red, white and blue butts.