31 May 2008

Public Displays of What?

As I tend to do, I have been watching the news over the last couple of days and taking in the news of the man in Calgary who stabbed his tenant, his wife, two of his children and then himself. Everyone is suitably horrified and shocked, including some of the police officers arriving on the scene. I understand that — it must be unspeakably difficult to have to deal with that, or to find out that such a thing has happened in your city or in your neighbourhood.

The part I can't figure out is the impromptu memorial that grew in the yard.

When did this become an acceptable part of our behaviour in our society? Strangers, with no personal connection to the slain or the otherwise tragically killed, going out and buying flowers, teddy bears, etc. and heaping them on a lawn or some other roadside area (for car accidents) to express their grief. Perhaps the most extreme example was the hectares of rotting vegetation that marked the death of Princess Diana in that car accident in a tunnel in Paris:

People expressing their grief? Most of these 'mourners' don't even know the people they are grieving. Is there something about our wacky disconnected society that drives us to manufacture connections to the dead so that we can feel something — anything — and then express it publicly for all to see?

I understand grieving those we know. This other phenomenon is just creepy.

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