Thursday, August 7, 2014

Roadside Memorials & Respect

The Cross At The Corner - Tehachapi, California
I was doing research for my Perilous Journey project when I stumbled across something shocking. I was surprised at what I read and it left a bad impression on me.

Perilous Journey is a photography project of mine. I capture roadside memorials left by grieving folks who have lost someone to an automobile accident. These memorials serve as statements of love, grief and remembrance.

Someone had written a piece on why atheists should take it upon themselves to remove roadside memorials that include a cross or other Christian symbols. I won't link that article here, because I don't want to drive any traffic to it.

The gist of the article is that crosses are offensive, and, because they are on public property, that somehow violates the "separation of church and state." Since many states don't have specific policies to remove roadside memorials, and the ones that do are not always quick about it, concerned and offended atheists should take it upon themselves to remove them. After all, the article says, roadside memorials are no different than other litter. They are no different than old fast-food cups and cigarette butts. The author then provides how-to steps for roadside memorial removal.

Now I won't get into the whole "separation of church and state" thing, not because one won't find it in the Constitution and other founding documents (it is found in a personal letter, if you are wondering), but because it matters not to any of this. If the state was the one putting these memorials up or if the state was advocating them, then this might be an argument. But it is individuals who do this and not government officials.

What bothers me about the article is hate. Someone is so filled with hatred toward a group of people that they'd actively (metaphorically) kick a grieving mom in the gut and raise a middle finger. That's what that person is doing when he or she takes down these memorials. It is cold and heartless.

The person who wrote the article doesn't care one bit about the poor people who lost a close friend or family member. They don't give one iota about those with a broken heart and a head full of unanswered questions. He or she is too blinded by hate to see any of that.

And let us not confuse hate for offensiveness. An adult is not so fragile that a small thing like a cross at a roadside memorial is offensive. We are not talking about three-year-olds here. If something so small and seemingly insignificant can effect an adult so much, perhaps that is a sign of a much deeper problem, one that might require professional attention.

No, it is not offensiveness, but something completely different. For one to have this attitude he or she must have been hurt in some way by a Christian or are ignorant and are a bigot. Either way, the person is self-destructing and harming others in the process.

I feel bad. I have pity. But I feel much worse for the grieving people who erected a memorial for someone they will miss deeply, and some fool comes along and destroys it just for the sake of destroying it. Those people I feel especially bad for.

With all of that said, many states have laws about placing things along right-of-ways. The people who put these up might not have a legal right to do what they did. Many states will eventually remove them. That's all fine. I have no problems with that. The workers who have to take these down are simply doing their job. I read stories about how some of these people try to be as absolutely respectful as possible when they do this. There is no hate.

It is about respect, and whether or not you have any. It is about caring, at least a little, for those going through a really tough time in life. The difference is the heart.

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