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Rebuilding Our National Family Structure

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Have you ever wondered why people mourn the loss of individuals of stature, such as celebrities and political leaders, who are complete and total strangers, with profound sadness and frustration? Think about the celebrity deaths over the last few years like Michael Jackson and Avicii or, more recently, Kobe Bryant and the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. After each of their deaths, we saw people mourning for days or even weeks, crying out in the streets asking why or how such a terrible thing could have happened.

Regardless of how tragic, unfortunate, or untimely some of their deaths may have been, we are reminded that no one knows when their time will come, and that death waits for no man. An old Southern Christian saying suggests that we're only here for a season, and some seasons for some people are shorter than others. So, in thinking along those terms, we can accept that death is inevitable and can happen at any given moment. Yet, that doesn't take away the pain or emotion we feel when we suffer a loss. However, those feelings and emotions of loss are typically toward a family member or someone we were close to, not a stranger.

This brings me back to my original question, why are so many of us emotionally devastated by the death of a celebrity? Some people even mourn the deaths of celebrities or well-known figures more than they do a close relative or friend. Perhaps our society has become so infatuated with the characters created by these "influential" people that we genuinely feel they're a part of our lives.

Therein lies the problem.

Many Americans have come to value unknown "influencers" more than their family members because they've become conditioned to hold celebrities and people of power to untenable heights as if they were demigods worthy of infinite praise. As a result, who could dare mourn these loved ones equally to or with more significant pain than the loss of a beloved icon? To put it frankly, what have our loved ones done to impact culture or the world?

People will take off from work, seek counseling, and buy expensive souvenirs all to salute their idol, but what about the everyday idols and heroes within our families? Are they too not worthy of the same praise, if not greater? Should they not be elevated for their direct contribution to our lives and our familial experiences?

Family and community are established organically and over time. The networks that we create through the interpersonal and multifaceted webs should absolutely trump this celebrity worship. Reinforcing these strange relationships only degrades the unique and authentic intimacy tied to personal loss or tragedy.

There must be a deep sense of emptiness within man that we permit the deepest aspects of the human heart to be relegated to absolute strangers. This is not to say that we shouldn't feel sorrow for the dead or for the loss that their loved ones feel; however, we should not feel the same sorrow we would feel for a loved one. Society's current reversal of these suggests a breakdown of our familial structure which points to an even more concerning breakdown of our society because the family structure builds strong character. The collapse in this moral character furthers weakens community structures, which collectively weakens our once strong nation.

The future of America rests on this. While there is no obvious connection between mourning a celebrity, the correlated breakdown is deeper than what meets the eye. The United States has degraded in its overall standing. Rather than looking to our celebrities or other influential figures, it's time to look around us. The family structure builds strong character among men and women, which furthers strong communities, and which collectively creates and sustains a strong nation.

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