Cemetery vandalism and desecration
Thursday, March 2, 2017 6:36 AM
“How can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?”
– Carson McCullers (1917-1967)
Ladies and gentlemen, over the years I’ve penned many an offering telling tales of times of yore.
It’s important to seize the blessings of today, but it’s also important to remember the past, our history, our ancestors and our forerunners.
When I was a child, I was a bit spooked, so to speak, of cemeteries. Thinking of all the dead people lying in repose made me a bit uncomfortable. Or perhaps what made me uncomfortable is the reality that death is certain for the born.
These days, strolling through quiet cemeteries is often a peaceful and cathartic experience. And when I write of days long past and people long gone, to me it’s almost as if the people and places of generations past come back to life, albeit for a fleeting moment.
It’s been said that on this earth you die twice – once when you stop breathing, and a second time, a bit later on, when someone says your name for the last time.
Sometimes, when these folks I write about “come back to life,” I wonder how long it’s been since anyone thought about them, visited their graves or said or read their names.
About six years ago, I was driving by a local cemetery and noticed that some of the monuments in the graveyard had been toppled. I had a reporter make some calls and published a story on the vandalism that had happened. I also wrote a column about the desecration because I was infuriated.
Since we last talked, you’ve probably heard or read about the vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia.
At the Chesed Shel Emeth Society Cemetery in suburban St. Louis, more than 150 headstones were vandalized. Afterward, more than 1,000 people, including Vice President Mike Pence, showed up and helped with the cleanup of the site.
According to The Washington Post, Pence took some time to talk about the cemetery vandalism, saying, “We condemn this vile act of vandalism and those who perpetrated it in the strongest possible terms.”
Less than a week later, the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia was vandalized by lowlifes.
CNN reported that Philadelphia police estimate 75 to 100 headstones were toppled at the cemetery, though people who visited the cemetery say the number is much higher. Local media said a rabbi who walked through the cemetery counted 460 headstones that were toppled or damaged. Police have not offered a motive or made any arrests.
Sadly, I doubt there will be any arrests in either case. If I recall correctly, a reward was offered for the arrest of anyone who caused the desecration of final resting places in the Hillsboro Cemetery, but none were made. Perhaps I’m wrong, hopefully I am.
The White House condemned the vandalism and the wave of bomb threats to Jewish centers and schools across the nation, as Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters, “The cowardly destruction in Philadelphia this weekend comes on top of similar accounts from Missouri and threats made to Jewish community centers around the country.
The president continues to condemn these and any other forms of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms. No one in America should feel afraid to follow the religion of their choosing freely and openly. The president is dedicated to preserving this originating principle of our nation.”
Speaking of religion and hateful acts, a statue of Jesus Christ has been beheaded two times this month at a church in Indianapolis.
It’s all just despicable, hateful, reprehensible, heinous and all similar adjectives – times one hundred.
When it comes to cemeteries and monuments, I’ve seen many headstones that have weathered and deteriorated with time, to the point where the names of those in their final resting places have faded away or the stones have crumbled and collapsed. They don’t need detestable jackasses speeding up the process.
It’d be great to make it so that the deterrent for committing such an act would thwart such despicable crimes. But graveyards are often lonely places, especially at night when they are “closed,” and unless there is some sort of surveillance or some sort of regular patrol, the deterrents are almost rendered useless.
After all, the inhabitants aren’t talking.
Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press.