You can’t make stuff like this up.
Apparently I was last one in the nation to learn about the surreal dispute between the parents of the late Kimberly Walker, a 28-year-old Iraq War vet who was found murdered in a Colorado hotel room eight months ago, and the owners of Cincinnati’s historic Spring Grove Cemetery, concerning the headstones erected over her grave on October 10.
The cemetery reversed its official approval of the twin monuments, apparently bestowed by someone who had momentarily been possessed by the spirit of Chuck Jones, saying that it would be inappropriate for a traditional and historic 19th Century pastoral cemetery that serves as the final resting place of Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, several Civil War generals including “Fighting Joe” Hooker, who lost the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Hall of Fame manager of the 1927 Yankees, Miller Huggins, and many others, to sport not one but two hideous 6-foot-high, 4-foot-wide, 7,000 pound slabs of granite lovingly carved to depict SpongeBob Squarepants in military gear, one of which displays Kimberly’s name on his uniform. (For those of you who are hopelessly estranged from popular culture, SpongeBob is a fictional deep sea yellow sponge who stars in a popular Nickelodeon cable TV children’s cartoon show. Kimberly, we are told, loved the show. SpongeBob is an idiot, by the way.)
The family is outraged, and feels abused. “I feel like, and we all feel like, SpongeBob should stay there. We bought the plots, all six of them. We put the monuments there, we did what we had to do and they said they could provide that service to us,’ said Walker’s twin sister Kara, who was looking forward to eventually being buried under the second headstone. “I thought it was the greatest thing in the cemetery. I even told the people there that I think this is the best monument I’ve ever seen. It’s the best headstone in the cemetery and they all agreed. It came out really nice.”
Still, putting considerations of taste aside—-and what American these days doesn’t do that daily?—the Walkers duly purchased the plots (they have four more…and just think of what might end up on them) and properly cleared the monuments.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for this lovely Fall day is this:
Does fairness dictate that the Walkers be allowed to erect whatever monuments they choose, including giant, garish sculptures of a cartoon character, to honor the memory of their daughter?
Hmmm, let me think about my answer to this. There, that’s enough time:
Cemeteries like Spring Grove, which include Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass,, not far from where I grew up, were lovingly designed as parks, and giant SpongeBob statues are about as appropriate to the classic and dignified surroundings there as Miley Cyrus, her giant finger and her Teddy Bears in full twerk. The fool who granted permission to erect these monstrosities needs to be fired and perhaps institutionalized, and the cemetery is quite correctly undertaking (no pun intended) to reimburse the family for the cost of the stones, which I’m sure was inflated by the extra effort it took someone to carve the things while laughing himself sick. Still, it is doing the family a favor. It is guaranteed that if the monuments remained, a century or so from now, when nobody remembers who or what SpongeBob was, the headstones will be regarded as a famous oddity and the family who erected them as classless wackos. (It is also better than even odds that when Kara is nearer to being buried next to her sister, she will not be so enthusiastic about spending eternity under a moronically grinning giant sponge.)
The ethics dunces here are the Walkers, who are willing to mar the surroundings and upset scores of families who chose this ultra-traditional burial place for a reason, just to please their dead daughter, who may not have wanted to be forever remembered for her taste in children’s TV programming above all, and who, unlike the rest of us, won’t have to look at the damn thing on top of her. Their position is disrespectful to the sensibilities of those, including the buried, who chose Spring Grove in the belief that its traditional setting would be maintained. It is the equivalent of a family of hillbillies that moves into a lovely neighborhood and immediately erects nude statues of Elvis on their property and paints their mansion pink.
The counter-argument, I suppose, is this: who is to say that SpongeBob is more offensive than, say, angels, or over-sized, ostentatious monuments to people who hardly deserve it, or more solemn horrors like this, titled “Grief,” which presides over the grave of the wife of historian Henry Adams, John’s great-grandson (she killed herself by drinking photographer’s development fluid) in the District of Columbia’s famous Rock Creek Cemetery?
Creepy, no? But still more fitting to a cemetery and less likely to be regarded as a blot on the landscape than a huge headstone modeled after this:
You don’t agree?
That’s perfectly fine.
Stay out of my cemetery.
Graphic: Fox News