I know we talked about this a while ago, but once again, the search function has failed me. I for one, think that the shrines have a "Time And Place", but there are times when I think they are not appropriate, mostly when they become too large. A cross with a few flowers or wreath, or something similarly simple (although there is one in Calgary, at the south end of Deerfoot Trail that is very nicely done)
Roadside shrines spark debate on displays of grief
Knox column: Allowing them or banishing them is a topic that makes many of us squirm
Jack Knox, Times Colonist Published: Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Way up near the top of Anarchist Mountain, right at the end of one of the switchbacks snaking up the thousand-metre climb from Osoyoos, a couple of crosses stand by the concrete barrier.
Don't know who died there, or when, but the crosses are impossible to miss.
They're right smack in the driver's line of vision, unlike the other roadside memorials quickly glimpsed from the corner of the eye while zipping down the highway.
This is what I noticed while driving around southern B.C. last week: So many highway shrines that their existence barely registers, not unless they're right in your face like the ones on Anarchist Mountain.
The entire province is like that, really, the highways dotted with grim reminders of lives extinguished prematurely: Homemade crosses planted in the median, shrink-wrapped photos tacked to utility poles, sympathy cards, flowers, weathered teddy bears, hockey sticks, unhappy reminders of someone else's anguish.
Some complain that the shrines, and those who tend to them, constitute a safety hazard, but the suspicion is that what people really object to is being forced to share that anguish and the sadness of the displays as they grow tattered and faded and wilt.
This is squishy territory, the kind of stuff that makes us squirm. We might not like to acknowledge it, but our culture is not comfortable -- or at least didn't used to be -- with public expressions of grief.
So we talk about safety hazards instead.
Roadside memorials are a fairly new phenomenon here. They have long been found in certain parts of Europe, Mexico, and the southern U.S., but were pretty much unheard of in B.C. even 20 years ago. Now they're ubiquitous. How come?
In part, it's because one memorial leads to another, sending the message that it's OK to erect them. "Public displays of commemoration are much more acceptable than they were in the past," says Arthur Jipson.
He's on the phone from the University of Dayton, Ohio, where he is director of criminal justice studies. He has been researching roadside memorials since 1999. They're not an alternative to traditional grave markers, he says, but are seen as sending a more powerful message. Some mourners see them as a means of channelling grief into public service -- a reminder not to drink and drive, or to speed.
Not everyone approves of them, though.
An American named Jason Curless has a website packed with photos of himself mockingly posing beside memorials; "News flash: They ain't all martyrs," he writes, the implicit message having something to do with the glorification of avoidable tragedy.
And a Calgary Sun story last week said a university professor has been conducting a survey that, at least so far, shows most people in the Alberta city want to ban roadside shrines. That's exactly what 15 U.S. states had done as of late last year, according to Jipson's research. Eleven other states allow them, but with conditions. Colorado restricts the size of displays. California only allows memorials when alcohol was involved in the crash.
Several jurisdictions limit the length of time that a memorial may stand. Hawaii lets them stay for no more than 30 days, and says they can't incorporate reflective materials. Wyoming provides signs that may stay up for five years.
In 2003, Washington state decided to have its highways department remove all roadside shrines. Families have the option of paying for an official memorial sign instead.
Police and highways officials don't always apply the letter of the law, though. "There's an awful lot of discretion that individual officers use," says Jipson. "There's a great deal of sensitivity to families."
Here in B.C., where Transportation Ministry policy is to allow memorials, as long as they aren't a hazard: "If the district manager determines that it is absolutely necessary to remove a memorial marker for safety, construction or maintenance purposes, the district manager will attempt to contact the individuals who erected the memorial and facilitate its relocation or removal."
Squirming aside, maybe that's as it should be. A roadside shrine wouldn't be my first choice (better to be memorialized where you lived well than where you died badly, I say) but it might be yours. The basic question: Do we have the right to tell each other how to grieve?
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008
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Thread: Road Side Memorials
09-16-2008, 08:59 AM #1
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Road Side Memorials
09-16-2008, 09:24 AM #2
I remember reading about this in a forum. But was it this one or another?
We have those 'shrines' popping up all over. Some reasonable, some tacky. Not something I would want.
One of our States, South Australia, actually places (placed? May have changed) official markers at the site of every serious injury or fatality. Small crosses are placed at the side of the road (I think it's red for injury, black for fatality) and in some places there are growing collections.
Something I've seen here that you may have also? A sticker placed on a car window saying "Touched by the road toll". Though when you see one on a car being driven badly, it makes you wonder."Professional" means your attitude to the job...
Nullus Anxietas ..... (T Pratchett)
09-16-2008, 10:30 AM #3
Not to deminish from the story, but on a few cross town trips in Memphis, I've come upon utility poles decorated from top to bottom with stuffed animals. I'm not quite sure what it means, perhaps marking gang territory or something, but the neighborhood wasn't one I'd hang around in longer than it takes a traffic light to change. There was also one neighborhood that had several tennis shoes hanging from the utility pole wires in the middle of the street.I fish for a living, but I have to work for money...
09-16-2008, 10:46 AM #4
I've been told that the hanging tennis shoes denotes where a gang has committed a kill, sort of their way of showing "hey, this is our territory".
09-16-2008, 01:27 PM #5
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Well,this weekend a woman was killed and the telephone pole out front was covered in stuffed animals even as the coroner's people were doing their jobs.
If the shoe hanging means a gang made a kill there,then the police director has more to worry about than who is running a blog ( MPD Enforcer2.0 ) that officers can post gripes,moans and bitches anonymously.
For God's sake,the news this morning was full of 3 cops:an SO who'd shot at a DUI suspect then lied about how it came to be the guy was upside down in his truck dead,a married officer who'd killed his girlfriend, and another officer had gone to her boyfriend's house,forced her way in and was waving her service automatic around at everyone.
Last edited by doughesson; 09-16-2008 at 01:30 PM.
09-16-2008, 02:26 PM #6
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Quite a few years ago in Alberta, the Highways Dept used to erect a simple white cross in the ditch denoting a fatality. It faded away and now there are quite a number of shrines or what ever you want to call them erected by family and loved ones. Edmonton used to erect crosses at intersections where fatalities happened but we had a PC mayor and the Muslims complained that the crosses offended their sensibilities. Now they are replaced by this black blob thats supposed to represent a coffin.
09-17-2008, 10:00 AM #7I fish for a living, but I have to work for money...
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