Sunday, July 15, 2007

This Explains a Lot About San Fransisco

In the course of reading an online article, I found an incredible fact: San Fransisco banned cemeteries in the early 1900s. That's right, you can't be buried in San Francisco.

The stated reasons were hygenic - cemeteries were thought to be a source of disease:
Everybody knows that behind these shams are the mortal remains of a human being—killed, it may be, by some loathsome and contagious disease—and, at the best, a mass of decomposing matter, which, if not already offensive, must surely become so in a few short hours. The objection to living near a cemetery is no mere sentiment. Five thousand such bodies are interred there every year, and sometimes more. Half a million pounds of putridity are annually boxed up and covered with a few feet of earth. The scientist knows that all the evils of this decomposition are but disguised by stone vaults and costly cerements. The germs of disease grow and are diffused in spite of them. They rise to the surface from the deepest grave to poison both the earth and air. They descend to contaminate the springs of water; years do not destroy them. Putrefaction is actually prolonged indefinitely, and there is continued danger to the living whilst the process lasts.
Could this refusal to provide a place to acknowledge the fact of death be part of the reason that San Francisco became a city of mourning when the AIDS epidemic hit? By existing in a subculture of the young and healthy, gays of that time excluded themselves from confronting death. When the epidemic hit, they were thrust into an unaccustomed role - that of mourner. We need cemeteries, we need the rituals - but, by law, they weren't available in the city.

Talk about a denial of death.

Imagine a city without reminders of death. Do its inhabitants presume that they will live forever?

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