If I were a journalist with an editor and a travel budget, one story I’d try to write is on the standardization and bureaucratization of roadside memorial shrines built by those bereaved after traffic fatalities. Each state’s approach to these sites says something about how it trades off sentiment against utility, and how much its managerial class values convergence with the rest of the country’s norms. Unlike the federal control of speed limits and alcohol age requirements, there’s no mandate from Washington dictating uniform, state-maintained signs instead of handmade memorials. It’s just well-meaning state officials looking out for the safety of those who don’t know better.
(photo from Flickr user e_pics )
Certain domestic commitments, however, keep me from traveling the country interviewing highway engineers and grieving families. Would Scene readers, especially those still traveling for the holidays, care to contribute their own photos and comments on how each state grapples with memorializing private tragedy in public places? Consider the comments thread open, and if you have an image online, stick its URL between exclamation points as detailed here. If you can’t find server space, email me at mw[mylastname]@gmail.com and I’ll store the image on our box.