The 8 Most Horribly Insulting Attempts to Honor the Dead
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, mainly because good intentions don't mean shit if you don't take a few minutes to think things through. So even when you're trying to create a dignified memorial to some historic event, it's important to ask yourself, "Is what I'm about to create actually ridiculous and/or insulting to everyone involved?"
For some cautionary tales of how these things can go wrong, see ...
The Brazilian Carnival Holocaust Float
For those readers unfamiliar with Carnival, it's a weeklong giant party that transforms Rio de Janeiro into a nonstop parade of booze and exposed ass cheeks. Here's a useful primer from former California governor/ Kindergarten Cop thespian Arnold Schwarzenegger:
During Carnival, local dance schools build extravagant themed floats, each equipped with its own dancers, lights, and soundtracks (think the Fourth of July mixed with porn). And the only thing that could ruin Carnival would be a giant pile of emaciated dead bodies mixed with Hitler -- which is exactly how Unidos do Viradouro samba school decorated their float in 2008.
"I don't understand what the fuss is about. Over half of the bodies are just sculptures."
Keeping with the parade's theme of "shockers," the folks at Viradouro built a float dedicated to the Holocaust, complete with a concentration-camp-style mass grave made of mannequins and der Fuhrer at the helm. After human rights groups protested the wheeled pile of corpses, the float's artistic director made the tough decision to not have nubile dancers shimmying atop a mountain of genocide victims.
And after a lawsuit was filed by the Jewish Federation of Rio, a federal judge issued an injunction banning the float from the parade until the bodies were removed, thereby taking the "outrage" out of "an outrageous spectacle of feathers and asses."
Speaking of baffling attempts to honor Holocaust victims ...
Berlin's Confusing Holocaust Memorial
If it's hard to tell what you're looking at there, well, that's the point. Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe cost 25 million euros (approximately $33.5 million) and is an abstract affair that consists of 2,711 concrete slabs laid out over 4.7 acres, and -- save at an information center tucked away underground in the memorial's corner -- indicates nowhere what it's actually memorializing.
"Wait, really? I thought it was a tribute to LEGO."
So that's strike one -- it's a lot of money spent to memorialize an event done in a way that doesn't actually bring the event to anyone's memory. But it's even worse than that: Because tourists think it's just a big modern art installation or some unfinished construction project, visitors have been observed jumping on it, sunbathing on it, and sometimes even using it as a public restroom.
But the memorial's most notable imbroglio occurred when it was revealed during construction that the company that made the anti-graffiti spray applied to the stone slabs was the same company that made Zyklon B, the poison gas used in Nazi concentration camps. A rival firm tipped the media to this connection, making this one of the few times in recent memory in which it was actually appropriate to invoke Godwin's law.
Amazing how with just the slightest bit of human interaction it can change from abstract to surrealism.
The Monument to a Spanish Conqueror Built on the Graves of the People He Conquered
The Monument to Sebastian de Belalcazar is exactly what it says it is -- a monument to Spanish conquistador Sebastian de Belalcazar, who conquered Equador in 1553 and then Colombia in 1554. The statue was built in the 1940s in the Colombian state of Cauca, a state Belalcazar once ruled as governor. The statue depicts Belalcazar riding a horse that has just stepped on something, while the stone base of the statue depicts the logos of every gang in Popayan.
It's now more of a memorial to early '90s gangsta rap than anything.
So what's the problem? Two things:
One, like all conquistadors, Sebastian de Belalcazar was a Class A dick. One of his main goals in South America was to acquire all of its gold; particularly, Belalcazar wanted to find the fabled golden city of El Dorado and spend the rest of his days surfing on tidal waves of money. Unfortunately, Belalcazar did not find El Dorado, but instead found native Colombians. This was bad news for the natives, because when Belalcazar showed up in their village wearing his bathing suit and snorkel and did not find oceans of gold, he tended to take it out on them. He killed entire villages in rage (one of them solely inhabited by women and children) and enslaved most of the native men.
But the second problem is where they chose to put the statue honoring him: on top of a native Colombian burial ground/temple.
That hill there is El Morro de Tulcan, built somewhere between 1600 and 1500 B.C., and so far 60 graves have been discovered inside. The local people became aware of the temple in 1929 when construction revealed that the hill was artificial. But the hill was the most prominent point in town, and the townspeople weren't going to be stopped from lopping off the top of it to build a statue to a conquistador just because it would most likely open a portal to the seventh layer of hell.
It's important to note that they weren't aware of the bodies inside the temple until several years after they had built on top of it. It's also important to note that they now have known about the bodies for more than half a century and still haven't moved the statue, despite consistent demands from native Colombians for them to do so. But this doesn't mean that the government doesn't respect them. In fact, they originally planned to build a statue to native Colombians elsewhere in town (not on top of the temple, of course; don't be stupid, where would Belalcazar go?), but they never got around to it.
"In the meantime, just pretend that he's majestically apologizing, using the hill to spread his heartfelt regret."
Mourners Honor a Car Crash Victim by Doing Doughnuts on a Highway
When a friend of street racer Cali Floyd was killed in a car accident, Floyd and fellow auto enthusiasts felt compelled to do something special for their deceased compatriot. But instead of building a roadside memorial or holding a vigil, the racers paid their respects by illegally stopping traffic on the interstate and swerving around like goddamn maniacs.
In 2012, Floyd and two dozen other drivers met at a predetermined spot along I-285 south of downtown Atlanta. They gradually slowed traffic to a halt by occupying all of the lanes with their vehicles. The front of the pack then broke off and began spinning doughnuts in the middle of the road as tribute to their dead friend. Yes, this is tantamount to holding an amateur knife-juggling service for someone who has been stabbed to death.
While an increasingly hostile audience begins sharpening their own.
This stunt not only backed up highway traffic; it also came dangerously close to necessitating a second impromptu doughnut memorial (see: one guy whipping around near the median with no hands on the wheel). After video of the memorial went viral, Atlanta authorities attempted to identify the drivers, but there's a good chance natural selection will run its course before any arrests are made.
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.
The $25,000 Gandhi Pen
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.
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.
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.
But don't worry, he paid for it by spending two whole years in jail.
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."
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.