By Mssr. Lee Fou
A new debate has erupted in Congress concerning the Confederate flag. Politico reports:
Just as the debate over the Confederate flag wrapped up in South Carolina, it has unexpectedly exploded in Washington, forcing the contentious racial and regional fight onto center stage in the Republican-controlled House.
In the course of one day, House Republicans had to cancel a vote on a spending bill because Southern Republicans objected to language that would ban Confederate flags from federal cemeteries.
The battle was joined Tuesday night, when Democrats offered a series of amendments to prohibit Confederate flags from being displayed at federal cemeteries, and to stop the U.S. Park Service from doing business with enterprises that sell the flags. These flags are typically displayed alongside the centuries-old tombstones of deceased confederate soldiers.
As heartless as it may sound, I am in favor of not just removing the Confederate flags from our National Cemeteries, but I am also in favor of digging up the Confederate Dead and returning them to their various states, or just cremating the remains. There is precedent for this. Here is a brief recap of a 2011 article from Slate:
For much of European history, Christian graves have been impermanent. In the Middle Ages, the poor were buried in common graves in the churchyard, and their bones, over time, were removed to the charnel house to make room for the more recently dead. Even the wealthy, who were buried inside the church itself, were later moved into the charnel house. Plagues were also a major cause of churchyard overcrowding, leading to a few creative solutions on the part of the Catholic Church. There are several examples of chapels built from human skeletons, including the ossuary in Sedlec, Czech Republic, and Rome’s famous Capuchin Crypt. With morbid ingenuity, they used bones as building materials in baroque-style ceiling trims, crests, and even massive chandeliers.
By the 1800s, for fear of a public health crisis, major cities such as Paris; London; and Glasgow, Scotland; shifted from churchyard burials to the use of carefully plotted-out cemeteries, often far outside the city limits. Many cemeteries, particularly in France and Italy, leased plots for 10 to 50 years, at which point the family could choose to renew the plot—for a fee. Otherwise, the remains were removed to the charnel house and the gravesite reused.
This remove/reuse practice continues today in parts of Europe where, after two world wars, overcrowding is an even more pressing issue. Italy and France allow for exhumation and removal to an ossuary when necessary—although these countries typically leave more time for decomposition than Greece, and don’t share Greece’s bear-witness-or-we-pull-the-trigger approach. In Sweden, after 25 years, the law requires that cemetery workers dig up the coffin, dig the grave even deeper, and then bury another casket in the earth above it. The United Kingdom, resistant to any disturbance to graves since the Burial Act of 1857, is now trying a similar method—but only with remains that are more than 100 years old.
Today we treat our dead predominantly in one of three ways: burial, entombment above ground, or cremation—with nearly half the country (46 percent) projected to choose cremation by 2015. Even though cemetery overcrowding has finally reached our geographically sprawling country, the United States, like the United Kingdom, subscribes to a “final resting place” view of burial: according to a 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Dougherty v. Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust Company), you cannot disturb a body
Some Americans are trying to regain a certain level of intimacy with death. The green burial movement couples environmental concerns with land preservation—it rejects embalming and recommends burial in a shroud or biodegradable coffin. Funeral pyres have cropped up in Texas and Colorado, offering a primitive, organic method of cremation. Alternatives abound. Since 1965’s Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, Americans have had the right to donate their bodies to science (about 8,000 are needed annually for medical training). Sweden’s Promessa company may even bring us a far more radical alternative to burial: “promession,” the ability to freeze-dry and compost human remains and use them to plant a memorial tree in that person’s memory. Based on a method originally developed in Eugene, Ore., the procedure will likely be ready this year and already has a licensee in the United Kingdom.
So, there can be no cultural objection to my plan. The Europeans have been doing it for centuries! There is already a lack of space at many military cemeteries, so why not kill two birds, or more, with one stone! Why let our current and future military dead be denied grave space because of Dead Confederates? I say, out with the old, and in with the new!
Mssr. Lee Fou
Note: The above image is from the 1932 flick, White Zombie. This was the first zombie movie of all.