How Do Atheists Feel About Tacky?

By Marc Dion

June 6, 2010 4 min read

Right now, the born-agains, the atheists and the patriots (no, not the football team) are tussling about a circa 1934 homemade 7-foot cross erected in the middle of a million or so acres of weeds and snakes.

This is good. The argument cannot offend the glorious dead, who are past offending, and it makes good fodder for keyboard klowns like me who otherwise would have to look for work at the mall. If you can imagine Bill O'Reilly as a clerk at The Gap, then you know just how important it is to provide legitimate work for commentators.

The cross is in memory of World War I vets, who are not coming back, though something of them lingers on in our nation's numerous, often untended memorials. In fact, if you are considering building a memorial to the dead in Iraq or Afghanistan, I urge you to top it with a cross. Controversy will give it symbolic value, and symbolic value will assure ideological combat, which will guarantee upkeep. It's a good idea to plan ahead.

In 1934, when the cross was erected, it was assumed that most people in America were Christian, and those who were not knew better than to stick out from the crowd. This is not the case in 2010, when sticking out from the crowd is a lifetime job for most of us and, in particular, for small groups of cultural warriors who fiercely resist the nearly constant indifference of the America public. It's tough to be a martyr when no one wants to burn you at the stake.

I can solve this problem, and in doing so, I hope to avoid working at The Gap.

The problem with the big memorial cross in the Mojave Desert is that it's too simple. It's too stark. It's the kind of thing my grandfather might have built in his backyard if he had suddenly been overtaken by the love of Jesus. It's simple and small-town pious, and is therefore irritating and cannot exist alongside the culture's present fascination with the overbuilt, the loud and the tawdry.

So, what you do is you head out into the desert and you start "multiculturaling" the memorial. Get some menorahs, a couple Buddhas, a Ganesh, maybe one of those green banners with Arabic writing on it, a light-up statue of Santa Claus, a few African animist gods, a representation of the Haitian Voodoo Baron Samedi, the Santeria Chango, a tree for the Druids among us, one of those mandalas they like in the Hollywood section of Tibet — get all that stuff.

And don't buy good quality statues, either. Buy cheap, guaranteed-to-weather-badly, plastic junk religious symbols made in China and coated liberally with unknown amounts of lead, cadmium and arsenic. If anything you buy looks like DaVinci painted it, pitch it out.

Take all the religious symbols and put them around the cross, but put 'em much too close together, like a display in the window of a poor neighborhood dollar store.

Make it look like crap. Some people in this country object to religion, but hardly anyone objects to crap. Ask the networks.

What atheist is gonna take that seriously? Even the ACLU, which is nearly choking on its own seriousness, would find it hard to sue over a reckless, ugly jumble of poorly made junk. If you get really lucky, some over-luxuried critic from New York City will decide the whole thing is "folk art," and it will become officially valuable to the 300 people who follow the utterances of the over-luxuried critic.

The glorious dead ain't comin' back, and if they do, why not give 'em a laugh? An army is full of humor, much of it impolite and not a little of it directed at the government.

Anyway, the glorious dead didn't want a monument. They wanted to make it home alive.

To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com

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