30 June 2008 by Published in: Rants 18 comments

I’m going to rant about something unrelated to the Civil War now, so if things not related to the Civil War are of no interest to you, please skip this post. This one’s been brewing all month, and it’s time to get it out of my system. I recognize that some might be offended by what I’m about to say, and I regret that. I likewise recognize that some might consider me to be insensitive for what I am about to say. However, it’s how I feel, and I am not going to apologize for it.

Having driven more than 2400 miles this month, I’ve seen a lot of highways (many of them more than once). There are few things that I find more irritating than makeshift roadside memorials. For one thing, they’re terribly distracting. You can’t help but look at them, even if you don’t want to, as they stand out. That makes them unsafe. My eyes are supposed to be on the road, not on your makeshift memorial with the fake flowers and the deceased person’s favorite Big Johnson t-shirt attached to it. I don’t want to have to look at it. Neither do the rest of us.

For another, while I’m sure that erecting them makes the person who did so feel better, and I am sorry for their loss, I do NOT want to know about it, and I’m sure most other people don’t, either. I realize that misery loves company, but please don’t invite me to your pity party. Please don’t subject the rest of us to your misery. We didn’t know the person, which means that we don’t care. Truly, we don’t. That’s cold, but it’s the truth.

Finally, in the overwhelming majority of cases, it’s illegal to put this crap up in the right of way alongside the road. If the presence of these makeshift memorials means that weeds can’t be mowed, thereby making it even more unsafe than it otherwise would be, then I’m all for tearing the damn things down, even if that means hurting someone’s feelings. I also have no interest in having tax dollars go toward the upkeep of these things. There is absolutely no reason why even so much as a single penny of tax dollars should go toward the upkeep of something illegal and which has no business being there under any circumstances.

There. I feel better now. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….

Scridb filter


  1. Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Just my 2 cents… I would say in ‘defense’ of this Eric that in most cases (at least around here) it is teens who have died and are being memorialized in this manner. These makeshift crosses serve as a reminder and as a warning in some cases to the kids that most likely know the victims. You’ve toured our area often enough to know that most of our side roads here in Spotsylvania are blind, windy, country roads. There are plenty of those memorials along the way as teens die on a fairly regular basis here. Some were just killed last week out near the battlefield. A month ago I had to attend (by law) a teen-driving conference with my 16 yr.-old son so that he could apply for a parking pass for next year. It was the most gut-wrenching, nauseating experience of my life as they presented 60 min. of accident photographs and 911 audio calls of local teens being killed in a whole myriad of awful car accidents. To hear a kid screaming that his friends brains are ‘in his hair’ is enough to scare the crap out of any teen driver and parent. So although I can see the ‘eyesore’ issue with these roadside crosses, I also think that they help to serve a greater good in ‘reminding’ teen drivers when and where their peers have died in hopes they will think twice about driving recklessly themselves.

  2. Sam Elliott
    Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 3:20 pm

    I’m with you, Eric. I hate those things, and respectfully, Mike, I don’t think they make any difference at all in “reminding” people of the danger of driving recklessly.

    Incidentally, Eric, I made a rare eastern CW book purchase and got “One Continuous Fight”–a little less than halfway through and I have to say its very nicely done.

  3. Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I agree somewhat. I mean, a simple cross is acceptable, but anything more is ridiculous. As a new driver though I can say that when I see a cross set up somewhere, I start thinking about it. I think about what the driver must have done wrong (other than maybe drive drunk) that caused the accident and then I avoid those mistakes. There is one on my way to work that reminds me not to take that curve too fast. There’s another at a tricky intersection on a back road that reminds me to be really careful turning or else I’ll hit the trees.

    So while some of them are a little much, I don’t think that they should be condemned altogether.

  4. Rick Allen
    Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Eric, I loathe those things and share your feelings exactly. My God, if we marked every spot on Earth where somebody died, it would be like living in a grave yard. You cannot help but sound callous when you say these kinds of things, but thats too damn bad…….I’m glad somebody finally did.

    Of course, I’m notoriously heartless and evil……..so nobody should be suprised. 🙂

  5. Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 4:20 pm

    So, Eric, are you advocating having tax dollars go towards tearing them down?

  6. Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 4:49 pm


    I appreciate your position, and I likewise appreciate yours, too, Sarah. If seeing one of those hideous displays causes you to be more careful, then that’s great.

    Bridget, that would be fine by me.


  7. dan
    Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Lately, there is a new trend here in Nashville to make one’s vehicle into a rolling memorial. I see signs on the backs of SUVs almost daily, “in memory of so-and-so, with date of birth and death.” it seems so bizarre and out of place to me. i always wonder not about the person who has died but more about the person who is using their car as a rolling memorial. i don’t mean to be judgemental because folks deal with their grief in different ways. i do agree with eric, though, grief ought not to be a traffic hazard.

  8. Valerie Protopapas
    Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 7:46 pm

    The natural human desire is to have something more meaningful than the mundane and ordinary. Having stripped our culture of all things “spiritual” and demanding that people accept the secular in lieu of the transcendental, it is no wonder that we are beginning to see this “casting about” for meaning in our lives, especially among the young.

    I’m 67. I still remember when there was a “real” Memorial Day and not just another excuse for a three day holiday. I remember the men of the VFW selling bright red fake poppies in remembrance of those who fell in “Flanders” during WWI though I was born on the eve of WWII. I recall the Sabbath when only movies and a few other types of stores were open whether that day was Sunday in my part of Queens or Saturday in areas of Brooklyn. I remember when the departed were recalled to mind on holidays and special occasions. In fact, I remember a culture which had been very little changed for hundreds of years in its fundamental beliefs and rituals.

    No more. Now death is an inconvenience for the living with the departed hustled out of sight as quickly as possible. Churches and synagogues are more concerned with being “relevance” than “Eternity”. All the trappings of the Divine and the Transcendental have been removed to prevent anyone being “offended” though our nation was born in the very spirituality whose symbols are now verboten. I am not surprised at these rather immature attempts to find meaning beyond what our culture has become. And indeed, many are from the young who have found little solace for their loss in the sterile concept of mass consumerism.

    Man is “hard wired” according to many neurologists for worship. We as a species long for something more and greater than ourselves and our petty existence. I believe what we are seeing in the phenomena that you describe is an effort by 21st Century man, robbed of those things that once gave life – yes, even the tragedies of life – meaning, to find some thing more than our sterile culture offers. It is crude, true, but in it you can see the same sort of yearnings that can be found in the excavations of primitive man – and for the same reasons.

  9. Rick Allen
    Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Val, you simply must be the keynote speaker at my cocktail party.

    Its a Winter Gala………


  10. Tom Thompson
    Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 9:53 pm


  11. Tom Thompson
    Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Nice rant…a direct hit upon one that irritates me as well. From out of nowhere, these things started cropping up in my part of Ohio about fifteen years ago. They always made me wonder if “Dan” was a careless driver or an overly active Golden Retriever…either way, I didn’t want them on my mind.

    I’ve vowed to make their removal a plank in my campaign for Governor….IF (and that’s a big if) I ever run for Governor.

  12. Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 10:27 pm


    Good grief. That’s just shockingly tacky.


  13. Mon 30th Jun 2008 at 10:28 pm


    Amen, brother.


  14. Matt McKeon
    Tue 01st Jul 2008 at 11:56 am

    A big thing in my neck of the woods in welcome homes to servicemen and women returning from Iraq. A bedsheet with “Welcome back, Sgt. So and So, USMC” hung from an overpass.

    That’s the trouble with democracy and regular people. Tacky tacky tacky.

  15. David
    Sat 05th Jul 2008 at 6:13 pm

    I’m definitely not upset with others who do not want the crosses present, but I will just add a differing opinion in stating that they do not bother me in the least, have never caused my attention to be so diverted that I was in any danger of crashing, etc. One thing I would say is that, just because I do not know these people, doesn’t mean I don’t care about their situation, nor do I really think it means they are simply having a pity party. In fairness, I will admit that my father was killed in a car accident, 30 years ago, when I was 9, so maybe that is why I feel a little differently towards the people that put up those monuments. I have never erected one of these monuments, nor do I personally know anyone who has, but just thought I would mention another perspective. I definitely am not trying to be argumentative, either, as I love this site and like reading the posts of others as well.

  16. Sat 05th Jul 2008 at 10:05 pm


    You have nothing to apologize for. You’re entitled to your opinion, just as I’m entitled to mine, and I’m not about to tell you that you’re wrong for feeling the way you do about this.

    Thanks for writing, and I’m pleased to hear that you enjoy the site.


  17. David
    Sun 06th Jul 2008 at 9:28 am

    I started thinking about your post a little more, after posting mine, yesterday evening. You’re definitely right in that those monuments are being erected on public or private property that does not belong to them, and I’m assuming that in most, if not all, of the situations, permission was not granted to do so. While I can empathize with the person’s feelings who would put up those monuments, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to put them up along the side of a highway or some backwoods two-lane road, where it could cause some of the problems you mentioned. For example, my family has always known the approximate location of where my father’s life was taken, but never would have thought to go and put something up there — we just visit the place where he is buried, taking flowers, etc. There is probably a better way for them to remember or honor their loved ones.

  18. Keith Yoder
    Wed 09th Jul 2008 at 10:44 pm

    By coincidence I came across another blogger who expressed similiar sentiments. Most interesting to read further in the thread of comments that the state of Virginia has a standard Roadside Memorial Sign – funny that I’ve never seen one…


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