January 6, 2013

"We knew the memorials can’t stand forever... And after being weathered... I mean, we had bad rain, we had a storm, we had wind, we had snow."

"So I knew the time was going to come where we really had to move the memorials. Not only because the tributes themselves start to look unkempt and start to communicate a message that wasn’t part of the honoring that the donor intended; it also signifies a moving on, a readiness for the community to go to that next step."

The age-old problem of roadside memorials, in the Newtown context.


EDH said...

Connecticut PTSA organized a paper snowflake drive that evidently was more successful than they imagined.

But note the upshot of their statement suspending the drive. In it do you hear a "take all your goddamn snowflakes and shove 'em up your ass" subtext?

Thank you to everyone who has donated snowflakes on behalf of the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and the community of Newtown. We know that each snowflake represents the emotional outreach of the person making it. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from around not just the country but the world. At this time, we have enough beautiful snowflakes to blanket the community of Newtown. Therefore, with regret we must close the snowflake project to further donations. Please take this idea and your snowflakes and create a winter wonderland of your own in your community as a show of solidarity for our Newtown families.

campy said...

do you hear a "take all your goddamn snowflakes and shove 'em up your ass" subtext?

No, not at all.

Kit said...

Campy, me neither.

wyo sis said...

Maybe it's the hard headed pioneer DNA in me, but I wouldn't make that kind of memorial, or hesitate to remove it and discard it after a few days.
It's just stuff.

Balfegor said...

From Xunzi's (荀子) treatise on ritual principles:

That the mourning rite is finished in the twenty-fifth month means that even though the grief and pain have not ended and although thoughts of the dead and longing for him have not been forgotten, this ritual practice cuts off these things, for otherwise, would not sending off the dead have no conclusion, and must there not be a definite interval for the return to daily life?

As a general principle, all creatures that live between Heaven and Earth and have blood and breath are certain to possess awareness. Having awareness each of them loves its own kind. Consider the case of large birds and animals: if one loses its mate or is separated from its group, then even after a month or season has passed, it is sure to circle when it passes its old home. It looks about, round and round, crying and calling, sometimes moving, sometimes stopping, gazing about uncertainly and hesitantly, before it can leave the place. Even small birds like swallows and sparrows chatter and cry for a few moments before they can leave. Hence, since no creature with blood and breath has more awareness than man, the feeling of a man for his parents is not exhausted even till death.

Will we follow after those stupid provincials and depraved men who by evening have forgotten a parent who died that morning? And if we indulge in such behaviour, are we not lower even than these birds and beasts? How could we even dwell together in the same community with such men and not have disorder! Or will we follow after those "cultivated and ornamented" gentlemen? For them, the twenty-five months of the three-year mourning period pass as quickly as a running horse glimpsed through the crack in a wall, and if we follow their example, mourning will have no limit at all. Therefore, the Ancient Kings and Sages acted to establish some mean, and to regulate it with a definite interval. As soon as enough time has been allowed to perfect cultivated form and to fulfill the dictates of reason, then mourning was to be put aside.

(25-27 in the link, though my hardcopy, from which I take the translation, assigns different numbering)

lemondog said...

Cycle of life....unless meant for permanency s/b edible to wildlife.

rhhardin said...

Put up letheals to counter memorials.

EDH said...

Campy, Kit

I kinda did. First, the implicit disavowal that "this idea" (and invitation) was theirs in the first place.

Then the repeated use of the word "your": "Your snowflakes", "your own winter wonderland", "your community" contrasted with "our Newtown families".

Of course, "take 'em and shove 'em" is meant only figuratively to capture the practical frustrations that all these high-minded roadside memorials and other symbolic gestures tend to result in when they invariably transition from adornment to nuisance -- the topic of this post.

Mitchell the Bat said...

These memorials need to get more discriminating.

You shouldn't honor the kids who were jerks.

kimsch said...

The memorials are a waste. The deceased aren't there. The physical location where death occurred isn't a "happy" memory. Stuffed animals and other items left there are ruined and the deceased can't use them.

If you must - buy teddy bears and give them to the police department in memory of your loved one. The police department can give the bear (or other stuffed animals) to children who are in need due to a disaster or domestic violence. Living children who need the comfort a stuffed animal can provide.

Richard Dolan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Dolan said...

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. That's not an endorsement of weepy sentimentality. It's instead an invitation to be open to life's downsides, all of which are coming whether you're open to them or not, as well as a reminder that a focus on maintaining that happy-face feeling above all else is a form of addiction.

And, as with everything there is a time for mourning as well as a time for a change.

madAsHell said...

Some poor guy was murdered in a road rage situation about 6 months ago. A deteriorating roadside memorial has become an eyesore with deflated mylar balloons, and dead flowers.

I'm not sure how making a mess can resolve one's grief.

edutcher said...

When the memorials begin to come apart, it's time to remember the real memorials are material.

Jay said...

Speaking of Newton:

In addition to potential legislative proposals, Biden’s group has expanded its focus to include measures that would not need congressional approval and could be quickly implemented by executive action, according to interest-group leaders who have discussed options with Biden and key Cabinet secretaries. Possibilities include changes to federal mental-health programs and modernization of gun-tracking efforts by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Isn't that nice?

luagha said...

In Japan during historical times, the tradition was that a traveller would, by means of worship, take care of a shrine that he saw in need of care. He wouldn't know who it was necessarily put up to unless it had writing on it that he could read. It was enough merely to know that it was a shrine and it needed care.

Deborah McLaughlin said...

A lot more worthwhile to make a donation to a cause in memory of the deceased.

tiger said...

I'm tired and bored with people thinking that I need to be reminded that one of their loved ones was killed at a certain spot.

It's smug, conceited and elitist: 'Look how important this person was to me!!! I'm put up a memorial to remind the WORLD!!!'

Fark you.

Put up the shrine in your house and go to the cemetery put don't force your 'grief' on the rest of us; we all have enough of our own.

kentuckyliz said...

If there are memorials up around SHES, they should be taken down as the kids return to school, to get back to normal. Let's signal moving on and not constantly remind the kids of the sorrowful, tragic day.

Chip Ahoy said...

That's some pretty astute bird watching.

"Hey! That's the same sparrow whose mate I shot with a slingshot last year. Look! It flew around that old nest once then disappeared into the trees with the other 113 other similar appearing sparrows."

There is a stone marker along a road in Egypt that says something like: Whichever priest passes by this marker without performing the customary rituals of wishing me well in the afterlife I will reach down and wring their neck like a bird.

A sentiment so touching I put it on a birthday card.

(The person I sent this card to said it was opened in front of people who never did set it down. He thought they would tear it up playing with it the rest of the night. And that pleases me.)

Penny said...

Tiger, not all that long ago, we were of like mind.

But I'm rethinking.

When bad things happen to loved ones or to good people, many believe that "Something needs to happen".

The least of our worries are roadside memorials, firehouse memorials, inner city stoop memorials, which crudely put, is littering.

I am much more concerned with people becoming activists in homage. Their local politicians are ill equipped to say "no", when it is easier to say "yes" for politically expedient reasons.

We need to complicate this process. Perhaps something along the lines of no new laws without an old law coming off the books.

David said...

How Americans mourn:

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — Chris Kelsey is the tax assessor in Newtown, but for the better part of three weeks, his job has been setting up and organizing a warehouse to hold the toys, school supplies and other gifts donated in the wake of the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary school.

Despite the town's pleas to stop sending gifts, Kelsey said trucks have been arriving daily with tokens of support from across the world, some for the families of those killed, others for the children of Sandy Hook, still others for the town.

"A lot of the town's normal business is still on pause," he said. "I have a couple of people still doing assessor's business, and then if they can, open mail a couple hours too. We're all kind of doing what we can to get this done."

How would we cope with the Civil War? WW II? A plague?

kimsch said...

We need to complicate this process. Perhaps something along the lines of no new laws without an old law coming off the books.

Maybe we need a "waiting period" for new laws so they aren't based on emotion and there's time to calculate consequences.

Penny said...

Good question, David, and the obvious answer is "not so well" in the internet age.

Empathy for fellow humans is an honorable emotion, and we would all be better people if we could put ourselves in others' shoes. BUT

The missing element is LEADERSHIP.

Raw emotions need to be lassoed in with broader messages of renewal and healing and courage during dark times.

Presidents, governors, parents, teachers, pastors, and really any one of us, can serve in that leadership role. And we should.

When we "lean into despair", we are likely to be buried by all those who are leaning on us.

Perhaps that is the new definition of "shovel ready". Just throw the dirt on the grave, and let's all be done with this.

Just typing that gave me the shivers.

Doesn't suit our species survival instincts, and it certainly doesn't suit the indefatigable American spirit.

I have FAITH! We will figure this out together.

edutcher said...

s/b be aren't material.

MayBee said...

The memorials end up looking so depressing. The flowers wilt or fade, any fabric starts shredding, candles fill with water and attract dirt. Not a beautiful way to remember someone.

As for the roadside memorials, they attract my eye too much. That seems bad because they are usually at some stretch of road that is otherwise tricky (thus causing the original accident). There are several of them on the canyon roads around LA, and I don't need to be looking at anything but the curve in the road while I'm driving.

kimsch said...


The roadside ones don't give you any information as to how they happened either. Was it the curve? Was someone driving while drunk or high? Did the woman driving the sports car just break up with her boyfriend and was driving angry, her eyes full of tears, and she didn't see the minivan full of pre-schoolers coming around the curve...

Roadside memorials distract and don't inform as to circumstances. They don't help you avoid another, similar incident.

Noz pkr said...

The memorials on Mt. Everest are the 200 frozen bodies still sitting and lying in their bright colored mountaineering garments.

All well preserved by the anerobic conditions.

Many are used as wayfaring guides for successive climbers.

Noz pkr said...

Turning our byways into transit cemeteries is inappropriate.

The White Cross program should be guided by statute of limitations ordinance.

Placed only by permit process. And if not removed by the erector in 6 months, removed by the local road authority.

There are formal venues for memorials such as cemeteries.

Noz pkr said...

Correction: 120 bodies litter Mt. Everest