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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:16 AM
Original message
Can someone please explain this to me?
I live in Las Vegas (NV). Several weeks ago, a small girl child was found in a dumpster, beaten and battered to death -- an absolute horror.
Initially, she could not be identified, but recently she was, and her body was returned to her family in California. She was buried this week.

This terrible crime has been much covered by the local press; and, as is common here in the west (perhaps elsewhere as well) local citizens built up a large memorial at the site the child was found -- flowers, candles, toys, photos, notes, religious statues, etc.

Because the site is in an apartment complex, the memorial was removed (with care) last week. By early this week it was back -- and removed again. Today it was back again; removed again with a promise that the items would be sent to the family.

The news coverage of the memorial removal focused on how terribly upset people were that it was being removed -- one woman was completely distraught, weeping, with a local minister promising her that "she (the child) will live on in your heart . . ."

Now, maybe I am just horribly callous, but I cannot comprehend why people put so much into these memorials; obviously they are transferring (displacing?) feelings, perhaps fears, into the displays -- but why? That woman didn't know that child; she didn't discover the body. Maybe she lives nearby, but maybe not -- folks were apparently coming from all over town.

Can someone explain what psychology drives this sort of behavior -- and why it is considered okay? It just doesn't seem okay to me.
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leftstreet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:17 AM
Response to Original message
1. What feels wrong about it to you?
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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:34 AM
Response to Reply #1
5. It seems excessive, for one
and it feels like these folks are using this event to pin all their emotions on -- not well phrased, sorry.

I feel sorry for the family of this child, I think it's awful that she had to suffer (and saying that with the realization that I don't know if she did, I'm assuming from what was reported in the news) -- but I can't even fathom buying flowers or a toy and placing it at a makeshift memorial. I didn't know the child or her family -- my feelings cannot be anything but general, not specific.

I'm not religious and that probably has something to do with my inability to understand what drives this behavior -- it does have serious religious overtones.

I'm accustomed to seeing these memorials by the roadsides -- smaller, and probably attended only by family and friends. Why aren't they bigger? Where are all these folks who have been so insistent that they must keep the memorial for this child, and stricken when it's removed? Why don't they bring stuff to all those other memorials?

What is the relationship between the event and the reaction? What prompts people to think this is a reasonable thing to do?

I'm not trying to denigrate; I would really like to understand this phenomenon.
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tulsakatz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:49 AM
Response to Reply #5
13. George Carlin made a comment about this one time
He said 'no one can die anymore without people leaving flowers and candles' where a person died. He went on to say that he thinks we should have 1 memorial and everyone could bring their flowers there.

I don't know how it got started but it's just one of those things that people do. I don't even remember exactly when this started to happen.

Personally, I always thought that's what a cemetary is for.........to leave flowers at the grave site and to remember the loved one.
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leftstreet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:56 AM
Response to Reply #5
21. Interesting questions.
I don't really know.

Maybe it's just part of a "herd mentality." Maybe it's something more. Denial. Closure. I don't know. I guess I've never thought it was important to understand the phenomenon.

But for those who do, you raise interesting questions.
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niyad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:18 AM
Response to Original message
2. I am not sure I understand it either--just this last week, a police office
was murdered here, and the bus bench near the murder site became an almost instant shrine.
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MnFats Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:26 AM
Response to Original message
3. no explanation but here in Minn. there is talk of banning some...
..that turn up on roads/freeways at scenes of fatal crashes.
..people are creating unnecessary dangers setting these things up along highways...spots where pedestrians are a traffic hazard....plus, people that visit them are distraught and may not be paying attention to traffic....
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Trevelyan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:33 AM
Response to Original message
4. "No Man Is An Island" I think it is good to care but I wish sometimes
Edited on Sat Mar-04-06 01:44 AM by Trevelyan
the people who build the shrines would give to charities who help children and/or the homeless. But given the sickening Republican corruption of the Red Cross and other money laundering charities, it is very possible that the people intended would not get the money and help.

People have always built churches and shrines. Jacob after the visitation by the angel made a shrine by putting a few stones together (beautiful hymn about this "Nearer My God To Thee" sung by those going down on the Titanic" later when Jacob found the stones again, he built a more worthy altar and others in the Bible, almost pre-history did the same. Cathedrals and small shrines like those wrote about by D.H. Lawrence in his three versions of "Christs in the Tyrol" might help you understand.

People without art training would paint a picture where some tragedy had happened like a person drowning and put it on a tree where it happened and Lawrence wrote of a glass box with a little handmade doll of Christ at Gethsemene with a red cloak that he could imagine a peasant woman stitching .

The "Christs" of the title were the many handcarved crucifixes at crossroads, high in the mountains with a little straw hut over it but open in front and in Hawthorne's "The Marble Faun" he writes how a young man guilty of murder (of an evil man but still was haunted by it) visits many of these villager built small shrines and how it comforts him. And how Hilda and Miriam find great comfort in the small churches and the art work and in the great cathedral in Italy. Also a good book if you really want to understand this deep human impulse for what DH Lawrence called "Mememto Mori".
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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:40 AM
Response to Reply #4
7. Thanks. I haven't read the Lawrence, but I am familiar
with memento mori. More about 'death portraiture' and the like, but the same idea.

This may be beyond my understanding. I am, fundamentally, a pragmatist; pretty grounded in "reality" (whatever that is).

This seems to accommodate needs and desires that extend beyond the pragmatic - and I may need to file it in the "can't understand it but will accept that others do" file.
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Trevelyan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:41 AM
Response to Reply #4
8. Also Lawrences letters from Italy and his three books on Italy
Edited on Sat Mar-04-06 02:28 AM by Trevelyan
Sea and Sardinia, Etruscan Places and Twilight in Italy have a lot about the rituals of the Catholic church including whole villages turning out for processions which retained some of the "pagan" or "collective unconsious" needs which are written about beautifully in "The Marble Faun" as well.

DH Lawrence would sometimes make fun of the Catholic church but other times would write very sensitively about how the Catholic church filled deep needs like the Feast Days keeping a sense of the rhythms of the year. And Pasternak's novel "Dr. Zhivago has some similar passages that are very beautiful and true.

Lawrence also writes beautifully of the "Afterworld" scenes painted in Etruscan tombs and the other objects buried like jewelry and little ships to help people to pass into the next world "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" "Crossing Jordan". At the end of his life, the last book Lawrence read was about Christopher Columbus and DHL wrote a long poem "I will build my ship of death" which Dylan Thomas made a showpiece in his stage tours of recitations of poems. I was surprised because Dylan Thomas wrote so many poems himself. DHL's wife's daughter who nursed him in his last illness wrote that DHL was interested in the quote from "Peter Pan" "Death must be a very great adventure."
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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:46 AM
Response to Reply #8
10. Clearly need to catch up on DH!
I get so busy reading history, I neglect the good books.
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Erika Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:37 AM
Response to Original message
6. No. It is histrionics
If they wished to honor the dead, they could send a donation to a charity in their name.
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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:42 AM
Response to Reply #6
9. See, that's part of the problem I'm having understanding this.
It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the child -- it's about their reaction to the event.

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Erika Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:49 AM
Response to Reply #9
12. They weren't the ones who died, nor were their family members
They have a "victim" mentality where they want to interject and instill themselves as a victim also.

Much like what is being done with the abortion issue. Though, they are not involved, they wish to claim the "victim" status. Pure histrionics.
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Trevelyan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:53 AM
Response to Reply #9
17. For goodness sake, even Judith Krantz wrote some beautiful passages about
both synagogues and cathedrals holding a mysterious calming atmosphere - where people have poured out their deepest needs, tragedies and joyful times (marriages, christenings, etc.) Krantz' best book was about artists "Mistral's Daughter". Both ritual and art are an attempt to "re-experience some emotion you want to experience again" and making sure that a human life that touched you in some way, if only reading about it, helps you retain your humanity to care and maybe offers someone at Gitmo, or the child that was beaten and murdered, may have found some comfort or help. A military man who was a hostage, I think in Iran, spoke of an out of body experience when he was screaming while being beaten. Didn't make a big spiritual deal out of it but I have read that abused children and POWs who do survive have out of body experiences while they are suffering and this has been reported by agnostic psychologists.

In "Holding On To The Air" ballerina Suzanne Farrell wrote beautifully about visiting Catholic churches and cathedrals in America and Europe and about Ballenchine's and her faith and lighting candles and some of Ballenchine's modern religious ballets like "Prodigal Son", "Meditation", "Don Quixote" and others.
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Erika Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:55 AM
Response to Reply #17
20. Sancho Panza was one of my heroes
He saw reality and faced it.
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Trevelyan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 02:32 AM
Response to Reply #20
30. Pasternak wrote that "Reality in Russia has been so terrorized that it is
in hiding, afraid to come out." as a sort of mystic dig at the idea of Communist, scientific ideas of reality.
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Bluebear Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:47 AM
Response to Reply #6
11. I tend to agree. Most of it is heartfelt, I imagine...
but some will want to 'get in the act' and join the milieu.
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Erika Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:51 AM
Response to Reply #11
15. It's very heartfelt
They see themselves as the victim. But they weren't the victim. Histrionics.
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Bluebear Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:53 AM
Response to Reply #15
19. The fact that the memorial was removed should have been a signal.
The mourning period for that site was over. There was a plane crash into a Cerritos, CA neighborhood years ago. For months and years after, people were driving around the newly rebuilt neighborhood to gawk and leave flowers, etc. They finally closed off the access to the main road to slow down the parade.
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Skittles Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 02:12 AM
Response to Reply #19
26. was that where a plane hit another plane?
I remember that - truly awful
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Bluebear Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 02:19 AM
Response to Reply #26
28. yeah, Aeromexico, 8/1986
Edited on Sat Mar-04-06 02:20 AM by Bluebear
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Psephos Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:49 AM
Response to Reply #6
14. Perhaps it's best if we each honor the dead in the way we see fit
Edited on Sat Mar-04-06 01:50 AM by Psephos
Some choose an anonymous donation.

Others choose a showy memorial, a wake, or a gathering where they re-affirm their connection with the living by uniting around symbols and mementoes of the deceased.

Many honor the dead by remembering them privately in the odd small hours of the night, or at a moment when thinking about the person who's gone provides an answer or an inspiration.

All seem good to me.

Just a thought...

Peace.
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Erika Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:53 AM
Response to Reply #14
18. It delays facing the reality we will also die
Peace.
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Nevernose Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:52 AM
Response to Original message
16. I agree wholeheartedly (and live only a block away)
Why not contribute that money to a scholarship fund, or to a statue in Crystal's honor, or to the various women's and children's services here in town (Shade Tree, Child Haven, etc.)?

One of the reasons I noticed this morning (the only time I watch the local news on TV -- semi-catatonic), was that in a picture shown on Channel 3, there were twenty IDENTICAL candles laid out in a neat five by four row. This indicates to me that it's only a few people buying and placing a large number of things. A lot of it's coming, too, from our burgeoning immigrant Latino community, in which this sort of memorial is normal but seems misplaced to our North American sensibilities.
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Trevelyan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 02:00 AM
Response to Reply #16
24. I don't think it is alien. What about Princess Diana and the first shrine
outside the hospital in France and then the incredible outpouring of flowers to the point that the florists in the UK ran out of flowers and her brother asked that it stop because it was becoming a health hazard. Part of it was an objection to the royal family but part was filling their emotional need and mostly agnostic psychologists tell people again and again to take care of their own emotional needs and not be ashamed of them and part was the concern that Diana had been treated badly and sorrow that a bright light who cared about people was gone. The shrines are an attempt to show that a human life does matter and there is something you can do other than buy a new toy for yourself to forget -- it is a rememberance which is a word used a lot in art and literature and is the motive behind art, music and literature and religion which you will never get rid of and if it is banned it goes underground to fundamentalism, nazism and cult of personality either Stalin, Hitler, Fallwell, or Elvis. The direct mourning is healther I think.
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Erika Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 02:05 AM
Response to Reply #24
25. Your post shows you personally identify with Diana
But you did not die.
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Nevernose Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 03:00 AM
Response to Reply #24
32. And maybe you're right
I was trying to be sensitive to what appears to me, in THIS case, to be largely a Latino phenomena. Not entirely, but largely.

As far as what's healthy grieving versus what's practical grieving, I don't know. I'm sure many, many Americans gave to Diana's flower fund. But I am certain (or at least have confidence) that there are Calvinsistic influences on our society that affect our basic values. I remember coffin shopping with my grandparents -- a rather gruesome task in their late seventies -- and hearing them decry certain brands as too expensive and others as not having a high enough workmanship.

There are also a large number of "looky-loos" driving past the dumpster area to see where the girl was found. I understand that these people are grieving (because I've driven by myself), but think it's at best rather creepy (because I've driven by myself).

Maybe I just wish that a more concerted effort had been put into something useful or poignant, like a statue or a cash donation to abused children.
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Katherine Brengle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:56 AM
Response to Original message
22. "It takes a village..."
A tragedy like this touches people, even strangers, because of the humanity of it. Children do not belong to their parents, or to their families--they are the progeny of a community, and thus any loss such as this should be felt by the entire community.

It makes sense to me.
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Erika Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 01:58 AM
Response to Reply #22
23. Losses are felt with grief n/t
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Katherine Brengle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 02:13 AM
Response to Reply #23
27. Exactly--and grief needs outlets, otherwise it can build up to an
unhealthy level--public mourning is a very, very old tradition, and I think it comes naturally.
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Trevelyan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 02:22 AM
Response to Original message
29. Marge Piercy is an excellent writer and has a wonderful website and she
often addresses this issue. I read her novel "Summer People" and when a artist's mother dies and everyone is sick with the horror of mourning and guilt that they treated Susan badly and didn't respond to her distress signals, the daughter, Johnny --"had built a strange object she said was intended as an honorary funeral pyre of her mother, because, Johnny asked rhetorically, why should Buddhists have all the pretty funerals?

It was erected by Willie and Johnny together, while people wee passing around wine and bread and fruit and cheese. Now it felt like a mad picnic. Finally the tower was finished, twenty feet tall and with a precarious grandeur to it, white and gilt and black and lavender, hung with streamers that the wind whipped toward the sea.

Willie, Dinah, Jimmy and Johnny were walking about it chanting something she (Laurie) preferred not to hear. she felt partly moved, because Johnny did have talent and she had made this strikingly grotesquely pretty thing on the beach.

Laurie wondered if she should relinquish her annoyance at Johnny. It would look great in a gallery. It would be highly salable. She could imagine it in a commercial context, perhaps in the lobby of a restaurant or a resort hotel. It was that festive.

But Johnny stopped and held a match and Willie, Dinah and Jimmy did the same. Soon streamers of flame were blowing out from the house of paper and plywood, and it was blazing away. Even on fire it was pretty, but it flared up very fast. In twenty minutes it had burned down to the sand. Jimmy and Willie brought buckets of seawater to douse the coals. Then everybody began to pick up and go home."

Near the end of "The World of Suzie Wong" after her toddler son dies in a mudslide, she gives the priest some beautifully crafted objects to burn for her son in the afterlife including a wonderful castle-like dollhouse pagoda and a letter of recommendation from the artist she is involved with so that her son will have the protection of a reference from an honorable man to open doors in the afterlife. Jean Auel writes similar things about wishes for loved ones who had passed on.

Jesus said "He who believes in me will never really die" and Aldous Huxley's wife Maria, a Buddhist, when she was dying said that she wasn't afraid that death was like going from one room to another. Huxley had a mystical era in his life partly due to his friend DH Lawrence' influence after being a cynical scientific rationalist most of his life - see Huxley's "The Doors of Perception" based on mystic William Blake's poem.

Piercy wrote a wonderful poem online mourning the deaths of those abandoned and forgotten by the inhuman Bush regime after Katrina.

In the "Clan of the Cave Bear" series, Jean Auel writes often about the beautiful and symbolic rituals of death and wrote in the foreword about preserved flowers and something else from the ice age over a grave that was really found by archaeologists, National Geographic has some wonderful gold work done in ancient times buried with a royal couple and the pyramids themself were a monumental memorial of someone having lived and hope to live again. The street walk shrines are not an anomaly.
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wickerwoman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 02:47 AM
Response to Original message
31. At the risk of being cynical,
I think that most people's lives are just hideously humdrum and boring. When something even vaguely out of the ordinary happens near them, they have an instinct to be a part of it in any way they can. I've witnessed several "grief proximity competitions" concerning 9/11. You know "My cousin's coworker works for the airline that crashed in Pennsylvania" "Oh yeah, my dentist knows a guy whose sister died in the Pentagon"....

So a little girl turns up dead in your city and people want to believe it's connected to their lives. They invest insane amounts of emotional energy that they have stored up. Putting that candle or flower or toy is a way to make it a little bit about them. And when the vigil is taken down and they sense the return of their boring everyday life, some feel a little sad and some go completely bonkers.

I'm not saying this is true in every case. I'm sure for many, it's just a nice thought and they want the families to feel better- but my cynical side suspects that there's a certain measure of self-aggrandizement in the weeping woman.
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Igel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 03:10 AM
Response to Original message
33. I've never understood it; nor the Princess Di
compost heap that they so carefully constructed after her death. Gee, that's sort of a hint as to what I think, isn't it?

Maybe people aren't maudlin enough in their private lives?

Maybe they so want to think they care that they manufacture grief--I mean, if they passed the girl on the street when she was alive they wouldn't have noticed her. Much safer establishing a sense of community post mortem: it really limits your responsibilities.

I used to think it was specifically a Latin American Catholic thing. Maybe it was. But it certainly resonated with some in the US.

I had an employer once that was actually an enigma to me. She had pretty much only contempt for American women and, well, don't even mention American men. She'd fight with them; argue with them; wanted to have little in common with them. A certain class of woman that was properly motivated to "work for the betterment of her sex" was ok, but it had better be a woman that was pretty much failing at it. Small, unsuccessful producers of something useless, for example. Illegal immigrants, assuming she could construct a story about their running away from gender-based oppression (not just economics) were also high on her list. But she'd break down crying at the thought of "all the Chinese girls who lacked education and job skills and would be forced to move to the big cities and become prostitutes." It was a phrase she heard during a tour of South China once, as the tour guide pointed at a herd of school kids. She never actually met a girl who went off to hook, at least not in China. She had little respect or compassion for people she knew; but posit some abstract Chinese peasant girl and she was all sympathy. Then she could turn off the histrionics, pick up the phone, and chew out somebody. Point out some school-aged girl on the streets of LA that was hooking, and she was furious: arrest her, fine her, how dare she do something like that for drugs? The only 'community' she was interested in was virtual, and easily accessed as she felt the need for (and need to be away from) the 'community.'

I don't understand people like that. She strikes me as an extreme case of the shriner mentality, though.
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NMMNG Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 04:00 AM
Response to Original message
34. Monuments to their suffering, primarily
They begin as tributes to the dead person, but when they drag on as you described they evolve into monuments to the suffering (real or imagined) of the people who created them. They are an offshoot of the public monuments some need to have to their religiosity. It gives them a great source of comfort to have these monuments there, to pray at, to be seen near, to remind them and others of how they suffer (or how religious they are), etc. Really it's a form of idolatry--such people need physical manifestations around which to base their emotional responses and behaviors.
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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 09:40 PM
Response to Reply #34
35. Thanks, Buffy, and
thank you to all who responded. I continue to be fascinated and delighted with the tone and level of discourse DU often provides (and all those not quite as elevated dialogues -- those are fun, too!)

In the end, as a pragmatist, I find I am most comfortable with the idea that these memorials provide a comfort to those who build them -- with little to do with the precipitating event.
Like most of you, I also believe that those energies and monies could be better expended in improving the conditions of the living.

I suppose I wonder if the increased level of this type of memorialization has some connection to increasing levels of social anxiety -- but that's a question for another day, I guess!
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