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Memorialized

To be memorialized is a universal need – both from the perspective of the person who is memorialized to that of those who do the memorializing. And while it was once reserved almost exclusively for the highest classes in any society, memorialization has now risen almost to the level of a basic human right for all people It is often said, for example, that one of the great tragedies of the German Holocaust is that a huge percentage of its victims were disposed of in mass graves or mass crematories – without the benefit of a permanent, individual memorial. Today, especially in the world’s most advanced countries, nearly every human can expect to be permanently memorialized with some sort of specially designed structure – even if just a headstone – tailored specifically as a tribute to his or her life. This is in keeping with two basic human needs, the desire to remember, and to be remembered.

One of the first pieces of advice that psychologists and other mental health experts give to those who have suffered the loss of a loved-one is to establish a permanent memorial. By having a special place to visit—complete with a special structure – a grieving person can achieve the peace of mind that comes from knowing that this special friend or relative will always be “nearby.” And this same comfort is often what entire societies are seeking when they create large-scale memorials for their most famous leaders or for people lost in a catastrophe such as a natural disaster or war. One of the most famous examples of this occurred in 2004 when, after years of guilt-ridden pleas from celebrities and politicians alike, the United States finally opened an official memorial to the thousands of Americans who fought and died in World War II. Likewise, the famous Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. gives each soldier who lost his or her life in the Vietnam War a specific spot in which the soldier’s name will forever be linked to the great conflict. In some cases in which a soldier’s body was never recovered from Vietnam, this wall still remains the only permanent memorial that the person has.

memorializedAn interesting memorialization drive is currently underway in the United States: a growing group of people who were devoted to the late U.S. president Ronald Reagan have teamed up to convince developers of new public buildings to name their creations in honor of Reagan. The group’s goal is to establish at least one memorial building for Reagan in each American county and urban area. As a result of this effort, dozens of new “Ronald Reagan” schools, courthouses, parks, and even college dormitories are build and christened across America each year. As a result of this effort, which began well before Reagan died in 2004, devotees of other famous American leaders have begun similar campaigns. Perhaps most famous among these is a group working to build memorial buildings for former presidents Dwight Eisenhower.

Being memorialized means a person’s great deeds will live on forever. And that nearly everyone in the world – regardless of economic class – is entitled to this ultimate dignity is a great comfort for the living and the dead alike.

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