Daily Archives: 11 January 2009

Peace Light Memorial Vandalism

At the risk of making a “me too” post, I just wanted to add my thoughts about the vandalism of the Peace Light Memorial at Gettysburg.   As with all things “Gettysburg” the folks at Gettysburg Daily have posted a series of photos and background details.  One also must wonder if this is a trend developing with regard, not only to the battlefield, but other public facing structures in the area.  In other words, is this now an “in thing” to do?

I don’t want to wander far from my appointed blog subject lane here (markers, monuments, and the Civil War), but darn it how many more acts like this need to occur before law enforcement steps up?  I understand, this is the off season and there are less uniformed patrols on the park grounds.  But by the same token, how many acts of vandalism have occurred at the park in the last five or ten years?

I know, it is not like vandalism didn’t occur prior to that.  Otherwise why would this exist at the Virginia Memorial:

$500 Fine for Vandalism of the Va. Memorial

$500 Fine for Vandalism of the Va. Memorial

I seem to recall a similar sign at the Pennsylvania Memorial, but have misplaced the photo.   I know the signs date to a time when $500 was a lot of money.  Now days there are laws in place that can amount to several thousand dollars worth of fines and years in prison.  Personally the punishment I’d recommend involves cleaning bird droppings from all markers, monuments, and cannons on the field for at least half of the individual’s expected lifetime.   If caught….

That’s the issue, “if caught.”  Can anything else be done to secure the battlefield?  Do we need more patrols?  Perhaps security cameras at selected spots on the field?  Maybe a “citizens watch” group?  I’m not an expert there, but more patrols means more money, which could better be spent on preservation and maintenance by the park.  Security cameras (I’m talking the caliber of stuff we used in Iraq for perimeter security at night, not those at the gas station)  might cost a lot up front but have some savings in the long run.  Such might work for directing the authorities when an act is in progress, but is more a passive defense.  A citizens watch might be a more active defense, and another low cost option, but who is going to volunteer their time? (I’d imagine the locals at Gettysburg have enough going on as is.   But what about a group of non-locals who sign up to “spend the night on the field” on a rotating basis.  Well it was a thought….just brainstorming as I type)

Ultimately, in spite of anything law enforcement can do, and in the face of even stiffer penalties, there will always be some draw to deface something like the monuments at Gettysburg.  Someone will see the monuments not as tributes, but as a “trophy.”  Like some un-neutered canine, they feel the need to make a mark on the world by leaving some trace behind.  Not having the faculties for higher communication, spray paint and rude graphics are all they can present.

Hearkening back to the lectures in college sociology classes, I’m reminded that societies tend to define objects (and subjects) as either sacred or profane (personally I’d have used mundane, but some guy with a Ph.D. in the subject used profane).  The sacred is seen by the society as so untouchable, and the threat of ostracism so great, that no one dares demean it.    Of course the profane is so ordinary that such vandalism is un-noticed.  Under that school of thought, how does one emerge in life perceiving the Peace Memorial at Gettysburg to be profane or mundane?

So is the proximate cause here some lack of guiding moral principles today?  If so do we just need some good dose of civics classes for everyone?  Experience tells me that is not apt to work given the communication issues mentioned above.

Or maybe we just need to read the words on the monument:

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