There are more heinous crimes, certainly, but grave robbing is about as low as you can go.
It desecrates what many believe is a sacred burial plot. Most of us would feel extreme guilt even having stepped on a grave by accident, much less plundering it purposely.
It shows the highest possible disregard for the descendants of those whose grave has been violated. It shows an equally disgusting irreverence for the lives and memories represented by a tomb, so callously disturbed for temporary gain in a very fleeting material world.
In addition, there’s the more practical consideration of the damage done to posterity; the perfectly legitimate pursuits of history and archaeology are trampled on by reckless, thoughtless, self-serving thieves. As if by some kind of reverse alchemy, treasures of antiquity are turned into the fool’s gold of pawn shops and back alleys. In the process, beautiful stories told by heirlooms and relics are ripped from the pages of history and turned into scrap.
It’s bad enough to steal from your contemporaries. But to steal from past generations? Contemptible doesn’t quite describe it.
By necessity – because the prisons are already brimming with those who do harm to the living – the penalties for grave robbing may never fit the pure loathsomeness of the crime. In Georgia, it can bring but one to five years in prison. And that’s only if the judge has had a bad day.
But rest assured, the crime comes with plenty more public scorn than that.
It’s for this kind of depravity that we’ve decided the words “crime” and “offense” are synonymous.
The perpetrators in a Burke County grave robbery discovered April 13 were particularly brazen, detestable and sloppy: Uniforms were left scattered on the ground and a caretaker at Old Church Cemetery discovered that the graves of five Revolutionary War and Confederate soldiers and one infant had been picked through. Artifacts appear to be still missing, and now experts have to take time away from their real lives to try to piece it all together and minimize these deadbeats’ damage.
Two men have been arrested in the grave robbing, and a third for allegedly sheltering one of the two after he eluded capture for several weeks, in part by dressing up as a woman. The two primary suspects are also charged with manufacturing methamphetamine.
Drugs don’t excuse anything, but may explain a lot. We pray if that’s the inspiration in this case that those responsible will now be able to see the depths to which they’ve sunk.
Their first hint should be the fact that there’s nothing beneath them.