now the graveyards?

 

 

 

[T]he crowd approached; they were bawling and hissing round a dingy hearse and dingy mourning coach, in which mourning coach there was only one mourner, dressed in the dingy trappings that were considered essential to the dignity of the position. The position appeared by no means to please him, however, with an increasing rabble surrounding the coach, deriding him, making grimaces at him, and incessantly groaning and calling out: “Yah! Spies! Tst! Yaha! Spies!” with many compliments too numerous and forcible to repeat.

…. “What is it, brother? What’s it about?”

“_I_ don’t know,” said the man. “Spies! Yaha! Tst! Spies!”

He asked another man. “Who is it?”

“_I_ don’t know,” returned the man, clapping his hands to his mouth nevertheless, and vociferating in a surprising heat and with the greatest ardour, “Spies! Yaha! Tst, tst! Spi–ies!”

… “Was he a spy?” asked Mr. Cruncher.

“Old Bailey spy,” returned his informant. “Yaha! Tst! Yah! Old Bailey Spi–i–ies!”

“Why, to be sure!” exclaimed Jerry, recalling the Trial at which he had assisted. “I’ve seen him. Dead, is he?”

“Dead as mutton,” returned the other, “and can’t be too dead. Have ’em out, there! Spies! Pull ’em out, there! Spies!”

The idea was so acceptable in the prevalent absence of any idea, that the crowd caught it up with eagerness, and loudly repeating the suggestion to have ’em out, and to pull ’em out, mobbed the two vehicles so closely that they came to a stop. On the crowd’s opening the coach doors, the one mourner scuffled out by himself and was in their hands for a moment; but he was so alert, and made such good use of his time, that in another moment he was scouring away up a bye-street, after shedding his cloak, hat, long hatband, white pocket-handkerchief, and other symbolical tears.

These, the people tore to pieces and scattered far and wide with great enjoyment, while the tradesmen hurriedly shut up their shops; for a crowd in those times stopped at nothing, and was a monster much dreaded.

They had already got the length of opening the hearse to take the coffin out, when some brighter genius proposed instead, its being escorted to its destination amidst general rejoicing. Practical suggestions being much needed, this suggestion, too, was received with acclamation, and the coach was immediately filled with eight inside and a dozen out, while as many people got on the roof of the hearse as could by any exercise of ingenuity stick upon it. Among the first of these volunteers was Jerry Cruncher himself, who modestly concealed his spiky head from the observation of Tellson’s, in the further corner of the mourning coach.

The officiating undertakers made some protest against these changes in the ceremonies; but, the river being alarmingly near, and several voices remarking on the efficacy of cold immersion in bringing refractory members of the profession to reason, the protest was faint and brief. … Thus, with beer-drinking, pipe-smoking, song-roaring, and infinite caricaturing of woe, the disorderly procession went its way, recruiting at every step, and all the shops shutting up before it. Its destination was the old church of Saint Pancras, far off in the fields. It got there in course of time; insisted on pouring into the burial-ground; finally, accomplished the interment of the deceased Roger Cly in its own way, and highly to its own satisfaction.

 

— Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities; Book the Second–The Golden Thread; Chapter XIV, The Honest Tradesman

 

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

There was an article in The New York Times this morning that caught my eye:

“Battle Over Confederate Monuments Moves to “the Cemeteries.” by Julie Bosman, The New York Times, September 21, 2017

 

 

The following are some excerpts from the article.

One by one, Confederate monuments are coming down from their perches in front of courthouses, in public squares, along city boulevards.

Now opponents to the memorials are looking through cemetery gates for more.

Local officials and residents, outraged by the violence in Charlottesville, Va., last month and determined to clear their cities of markers that glorify the Confederacy, are pushing for the removal of Confederate monuments that have adorned the graves of soldiers for decades.

In the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, a six-foot granite monument with a bronze plaque dating to 1925 was covered with a tarp and whisked away in the middle of the night after activists called for its removal and spray-painted the word “No” on its back.

The mayor of West Palm Beach, Fla., ordered a Confederate memorial taken out of a city-operated cemetery in August. In Columbus, Ohio, vandals recently decapitated a statue of a Confederate soldier in a cemetery, leaving city officials scrambling to respond.

Days after the protests in Charlottesville, Paul Soglin, the mayor of Madison, directed that a plaque honoring the Confederacy inside Forest Hill Cemetery, a city-owned property near the University of Wisconsin campus, be removed. ….

The calls to remove the monument in Madison, and other monuments like it, have given rise to questions of the place of Confederate memorials and cemeteries in daily life: Is a monument in a cemetery really on public display? Though most people rarely enter cemeteries, are their contents — statues, monuments and plaques — subject to scrutiny by people in the community? While a Confederate statue in a busy town square honors the dead, does a monument in a tranquil, little-trafficked cemetery have the same effect? … [How many angels can fit on the head of a pin?]

The monument targeted for removal, boxy and carved from a smooth gray granite, is engraved with the names of dozens of soldiers, mostly men who were imprisoned and died at nearby Camp Randall during the Civil War. It stands prominently in front of the men’s graves, their names chiseled on their headstones in simple block letters — C. A. Hollingsworth, H. Faulks and L. Galloway among them — alongside their regimens and home states, frequently Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi. (Those who favor removing the monument say they have no intention of altering the gravestones.)

Three separate city council committees intend to study the memorial, which was installed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy around 1931 and also honors a local woman who regularly tended the graves, and make recommendations on what to do with it — whether to alter the structure, remove it entirely or append more information to it to give visitors greater context.

 

 

*****************************************************

 

I wrote the following in email to my wife this morning, commenting upon the Times article.

 

What’s next?

There is a word (or words) for what’s going on:

collective insanity;

mass hysteria.

To get a feeling for this type of mass hysteria, one should read Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities.” Think it’s likely to be read by the self appointed “minders” of public monuments?

I doubt it.

You don’t desecrate grave memorials and plaques.

We thought the Taliban idol smashers were bad. But, then, the comparison would be lost on the PC zealots.

I thought the defacing of gravestones by hooligans and sometimes by hate mongers (e.g., desecration of Jewish cemeteries by anti-Semites) was supposed to be a crime. There have been several articles about this in the Times, for example, reporting on recent vandalism at Jewish Cemeteries in Missouri and Philadelphia.

How about letting the dead and departed — all the dead and departed — rest in peace?

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   September 2017

 

 

*****************************************************

 

Addendum:

 

“The four arrested youths — a 15-year-old, two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old — were charged on Wednesday with juvenile delinquency. If charged as adults, they could have faced charges of desecration of venerated objects, conspiracy to commit desecration and criminal mischief.” — “4 Youths Arrested in Vandalism at Jewish Cemetery in New Jersey.’ The New York Times, January 11, 2008

 

 

The punishment is supposed to fit the crime. But, when the “crime” is destroying Confederate symbols in the burial plot of someone’s ancestors, a crime is no longer a crime, it seems. — Roger W. Smith

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1) rogersgleanings.com, a personal site, he also hosts websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin.
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