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14 April, 2013

Desecration is in the Eye of the Beholder

Do this to my grave and I will haunt the Hell into you.

Some people decide what's gonna happen to their bodies when life departs, willing the afterdeath: cremation, burial, embalming, burning viking ship, and so on, hoping the dearly un-departed will live up to the legal document, maybe even the dying wish. I'll cop to having considered all of the above except embalment, and can add a few more to the list, like: worm-food, fertilizer, being planted at the base of a tree, and something like the Zoroastrian end. 

Some people live in fear that somehow their corpse will be defiled, their burial site will be desecrated, their remembrance dirtied. As an archaeologist I've witnessed cases and heard reliable tell of epidemics of graves razed, bones bulldozed, and I'd rather it not happen to my bones, but I don't lose sleep over it, or even comprehend it as more than an abstraction.

But the other day I witnessed the routine maintenance of a US President's grave, a founding father, beloved by Virginians. A guy pulled up, trimmed weeds with one gas-powered machine before blowing trimmings with another. I don't speak for any dead presidents, singular or en bloc, but the racket and fumes felt like desecration to me. Said president remains synonymous with ambitious and creative husbandry, the idealized American nation of farmers, and so it's hard to imagine the guy being OK with a noisome din and gassy humors of the modern maintenance regime.

I don't blame people like the guy in the photo, and if you recognize him, don't be mean. He's just doing his job, and there's a lot to do for only a few staff, not the dozens of slaves and overseers that did everything in the President's day. Blame goes to that culture which cannot get things done without real slavery, or a mix of wage slavery and polluting technology. Maybe someday we'll be forced to do things by hand again, kill the leaf blowers and employ corps of landscapers at fair wages to weed, rake, and in all manners tend the grounds and graves, but I'm not holding my breath (until I die). Until I can keep gas-scaping from tending my grave, I think I'd rather be cremated and put where the weedeaters and leafblowers cannot reach, where the noise blows in on the wind and not out on the exhaust.

The dead were not issued ear protection.


1 comment:

  1. You left out one option, which I think would be perfect for you: bog man.

    I like that one myself, and wouldn't mind one bit being discovered and poked at by scientists in a few thousand years, to figure out how little I worked, the clothes I wore (synthetics, so sure to last the millennia), and what I had for breakfast the day before I sank in the peat ...