This week’s inductee into the “Overrated Hall of Fame” is … public, tangible displays of grief for total strangers.
They recently found the body of that three-year-old Florida girl that had gone missing. You know, the one whose mother waited a month before reporting her missing. Sure, it’s a damn sad story, and I can understand total strangers being affected by it. We’ve all known our share of three-year-olds, and even I can remember two or three who were so non-irritating that their disappearances would have left me quite sad. (Okay, maybe only two.)
News that the body was found has brought the usual herd of idiots to a makeshift, white trash memorial sight for the poor girl. I saw on the news that a pile of teddy bears is growing somewhere in Florida. I’m sure these mental defectives think they are moving us saner folks with their televised empathy. Sorry ramrods, but your furry displays of grief don’t impress me.
I’ve never felt so distraught over the death of a stranger or celebrity that I saw fit to show up with flowers or toys. The people who make a public display of their grief aren’t really mourning the death. They are engaging in a pathetic act of Me-ism, and it’s nauseating. (I especially include every English twit who showed up with flowers at Buckingham Palace after “the People’s Princess” died. These same Brits have the nerve to boast about the quiet English dignity.)
As for all you noodniks in Florida, if you’re so into three-year-old girls with (allegedly) batshit crazy mommies, go do something more worthwhile that will actually help a kid. Be a foster parent. Donate toys to a some group that will distribute them to real live living children. Throw a little money toward a respected children’s charity. But please, do it quietly, so that the rest of us don’t have to hate you as you cry for the camera and lay your toy/flower/candle at the “look-at-me!” memorial site.
Because let’s face it, these gestures are all about the griever and never about the dismembered departed. I’m not saying that the brutal death of a stranger (usually a white female, in this country) or the untimely death of a celebrity (the better looking, the more widespread the displays of look-at-me grief in this country) don’t really affect people. But to go through the act of buying flowers, writing a cliche-ridden note, then making the trip to some thrown-together memorial isn’t a sign of respectful mourning. It’s a sign of a disturbing mental imbalance and a disgusting display of narcissism.
It’s the same principle with these roadside memorials to car crash victims. While your grief was no doubt severe, the rest of us don’t need a mile-by-mile reminder of the fact that your friends or relatives became unfortunate statistics. It used to be just morbid crosses that dotted the roadside gullies, but in the past decade or so, the displays have gotten Versailles-level gaudy. Trees and telephone poles look like ornate totems.
I’m sure the poor schmuck who died in his car was given a proper burial. Go leave your tacky displays at their graves, where the flower-hearts and stuffed animals can be ignored by wine-cooler guzzling teenagers at 3 a.m. on a Friday night. At least there they won’t pose a hazard like they do on the side of the highway. Some of these roadside death extravaganzas have to cause even more twisted-metal deaths due to rubbernecking bozos trying to discern the contents of the three-foot high pile of shit just off the berm.
I don’t read comic books or graphic novels, but I do have an idea for a new type of superhero. This guy would be called Kerosene Man. He’d drive around with a trunk full of kerosene and a box of matches. Every time he comes to a roadside pity party, he’d jump out of his car, douse it with kerosene and light that sucker.
But that will have to remain just a fantasy. Instead, every trip in my car will mean I’ll have to endure another onslaught of look-at-me tackiness. Every time I see one of these mounds of morbidity, I want to stop my car and toss the entire collection of look-at-me-goods right into my trunk. But I’m sure some empty-headed do-gooder would jump out of his car and stomp me to death.
It’s not that I’m afraid of that type of death. Hell, I’d gladly become a martyr in my efforts to eradicate this roadside scourge. But it’s not death-by Doc Martins that prevents me from taking action. It’s the fear that the knucklehead who killed me would get plastered by a passing semi. I wouldn’t give two shits about him. I just know that it would result in yet another goddamn roadside memorial.
Ned Bitters is, in fact, overrated. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.