|Chain Gang Burial|
Cremation, once considered by a majority of Americans to be a punishment worse than death itself, has now been embraced so widely that in many areas of the United States it is the prevalent form of disposition. A recent post, Buried by a Chain Gang, highlighted the incongruity of indigent people being accorded a level of care and ceremony in their state sponsored burials that many wealthy Americans have chosen to do without. This window of incongruity is, however, closing fast.
Rhode Island Governor, Lincoln Chaffee's recent proposal to cremate the indigent persons in the state's care and custody is a step that will inevitably be taken all over the United States. States have historically borne the ultimate responsibility to provide the minimum level of a dignified disposition for those who die under their auspices, and now that our culture's conception of a dignified disposition has been lowered, the treatment of the indigent will drop accordingly
Exceptions will be made for those whose religious beliefs prohibit cremation, but elected officials will not be able to justify for long the provision of a higher level of death care for prisoners than what is selected by the majority of their constituents. Again, it is not as though the indigent wards of the state have enjoyed fancy funerals; they are and have been provided with the cheapest possible direct burials that can be performed. It's just that society's standards have dropped even lower.