#4. Arthur Ashe Posthumously Joins the Confederate Army
In 1996, Richmond, Virginia, designed a life-sized statue for a hometown hero, African-American tennis legend and civil rights pioneer Arthur Ashe. Everything was ready to go -- the statue was in place on Monument Avenue in downtown Richmond, the official groundbreaking was set for what would've been Ashe's 52nd birthday, and nearly everyone in the entire city was really pissed off about it.
"Who wants a copy of the Constitution?"
You see, Monument Avenue is also home to one of the most elaborate collections of Confederate war memorials in the entire nation. And even though a sitcom called Arthur Ashe: Confederate Tennis Superstar sounds zanily fish-out-of-water, both modern supporters of the rebel cause and the portion of Richmond that doesn't consist of gravy-sweating yokels agreed that this was maybe the last place in the world this statue should go.
In the end, that didn't stop the city council from pushing the installation through. Nowadays you can visit Richmond and see Ashe hanging out with his posthumous new pals, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee, in the most uncomfortable statue park ever built. If it helps, it does appear that his choice of company has enraged him to the point that he has begun beating his children with a tennis racket.
#3. The $25,000 Gandhi Pen
AP via Seattletimes.com
In 2009, on what would've been Mahatma Gandhi's 140th birthday (had he been some sort of sea turtle), German pen maker Montblanc commemorated the Indian civil rights leader's life with a limited edition pen. Only 241 of the pens were made, one for each mile the famously ascetic Gandhi walked during the salt tax protest of 1930. The pen was also wrapped in a solid gold wire, to represent the simple cotton wrap Gandhi carried. And to guarantee that this pen was the physical manifestation of a kick in the peaches, Montblanc priced them at $25,000 a pop.
AFP via Telegraph
Again, just so we're clear, it's an ink pen.
Needless to say, people were chagrined that Gandhi's image was used to shill for this foreign-made pen, which cost far and away more than most Indians make in a year. And the billboards advertising these luxury pens being installed in the slums of Mumbai? Yeah, those didn't help the situation much either.
Respect for Gandhi's face is the only thing keeping that billboard from being covered in human shit.
Fortunately, India's regional director for Montblanc recognized this misstep. He reassured consumers that the company's intentions were pure by promising, "When we talk about Gandhi, there has to be an edition that's more accessible." Montblanc promptly announced the release of a $3,000 pen, which is far more reasonable given that India's per capita income is $105 a month.
#2. Italian Taxpayers Fund a Memorial to a War Criminal
In the Italian village of Affile (population: 1,600) sits a bucolic memorial to field marshal Rodolfo Graziani, a veteran of the Italian colonial wars of the early 20th century. The memorial's park and museum were erected in 2012 and boasted an opening-day crowd of 2,000 people. That's not a bad turnout for a noted fascist war criminal and Nazi collaborator who died 58 years ago.
Well, if you take out all the mass murder and- no, wait, he was still an evil sack of shit.
Yes, Italian legislators spent $160,000 in public money for a memorial dedicated to a man nicknamed "The Butcher." And make no mistake, he earned the title: During the Italian occupation of Libya in the 1920s, Graziani imprisoned thousands in concentration camps and presided over countless public executions. He continued his reign of horror into Ethiopia, where he ordered a mass execution of 30,000 civilians after a failed assassination attempt.
The town's proponents of the memorial justified its construction with some vague pablum about "honor" and "fatherland" and "We're not fascists, really!" To quote an angry Italian politician, "It's as if some little village in some German province built a monument to [Hermann] Goering."
But if the locals are offended by the backstory, at least they can appreciate the sheer aesthetic beauty of the structure itself:
"Wait, this is the memorial? I thought this was the interstate rest stop."
#1. The Titanic Memorial Cruise of 2012
On the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the survivors' family members (along with an intrepid group of very rich, very bored people) commemorated the most infamous maritime disaster in human history in the only way that could truly capture the lesson of mankind's hubris: with a cruise. Seriously.
As a mirthful tribute to the original boat's doomed, waterlogged passengers, modern participants dressed in period costume and even used the exact same route the original Titanic was supposed to follow (if it hadn't taken a detour to the ocean floor). And not even a foreboding start to the journey could break travelers' spirits, as strong winds delayed the launch by several days. (It's unclear if any of the passengers pondered aloud, "Maybe I should disembark from this floating 'fuck you' to a callous and vengeful God.") Once the weather cleared, the cruise was completed without further incident, right? Oh, of course not -- the ship had to turn around about 16 hours into the journey, after a BBC cameraman on board fell ill and had to be airlifted back to Ireland.
"OK, we've covered air and sea. Someone alert the subway so we can check off earth from the list as well."
Of course, that was a regular, modern cruise ship -- we assume what Titanic enthusiasts are really waiting for is the full-scale recreation of the ship planned by an Australian billionaire. But here's the thing -- how could a successful cruise in it be anything but a disappointment? Nobody would care about the Titanic if it had just lazily scooted across the Atlantic -- it's the sinking that makes it romantic. So if you really want to rake in the cash, make a Titanic replica that simulates the sinking (like, there are crews there to fish you out of the water afterward or whatever). It'd be expensive as hell, but are you telling us rich couples wouldn't spend six figures each on a full-scale "actually sinking into the ocean like Jack and Rose" adventure? Somebody Kickstart that project.
For more terrible tributes, check out The 12 Most God Awful Tribute Albums Ever Recorded and The 14 Most Unintentionally Terrifying Statues in the World.