Thursday, March 10, 2005
Dancing on the Graves
Decoration Day, to put it mildly, is not what it used to be. The day set aside to honor loved ones, relatives, friends, and public servants who have passed away, has now become a carnival of sorts. I don’t know how long it has been this way, but I first saw the new Decoration Day five years ago—back when there was not yet a memorial set up at the Palm Grove Cemetery for President Tolbert and the other civil servants who lost their lives during the 1980 coup.
Today, as has become the custom on the second Wednesday of March, thousands of people throng to the cemetery on Center Street early in the morning to eat, drink and be merry. They will be entertained by musicians and comedians, stirred up by preachers of the gospel, and fed by vendors who are there to sell liquor, frozen Kool-Aid, roasted meat, and a variety of snacks.
Only a small fraction of the crowd is actually here to clean graves, pay their respects, and lay wreaths or flowers. Among this group are small parties of young people who have lost friends. They wear uniform T-shirts that say things like “We miss you” and “Why so soon?” But these young people are not here to be solemn; they are here to dance on the graves of their buddies, commemorate the good times they had together, and celebrate their own volatile lives. To an outsider, or to the old conservative families who bought the first plots at Palm Grove, the whole atmosphere might seem charged with unruliness and disrespect. But life is short, and the dead are in a much better place. Who are we to tell anyone not to rejoice in the face of death?