Pokemon and cemeteries don’t mix

Published 7:59 pm Saturday, August 27, 2016

A story and an editorial in recent editions of this newspaper discussed the importance of manners in modern society and one teenager’s project to teach youngsters how showing respect and consideration for others can make the world a better place.

We’re reminded of this by a disappointing account of a situation at Cedar Hill Cemetery that shows just how little regard many people have for others.

It seems the cemetery has become a Pokestop, a place where those who play the popular augmented-reality game on their mobile devices can virtually load up on the tools they need to catch the Pokemon characters for which the game is named.

Email newsletter signup

However one might feel about the explosion in popularity of digital devices such as cellphones, tablets and the like — or about the diminishment of real social interaction that has been an unintended consequence of virtual interactions via social or game networks — one positive thing seems to be taking place as a result of the Pokemon phenomenon: More people are getting outside and getting exercise while playing the game.

But there’s a reasonable argument that cemeteries might not be an appropriate place for games of any type. Many of those who visit cemeteries are actively grieving and would prefer to do so without being interrupted by others waving their cellphones around and exclaiming with excitement when they catch a Pikachu. Others, even if their grief is no longer fresh, still have some expectation of dignity and respect for themselves and their deceased loved ones.

What’s happening at Cedar Hill, however, goes beyond simple disrespect. Folks aren’t just walking through the cemetery looking for Pokemon-related goodies. They’re actually creating new paths with their vehicles as they drive from one Pokestop to another. In the process, they’re driving over unmarked graves, according to Lee Hart, a member of the Tom Smith Camp Sons of Confederate Veterans who volunteers to restore and preserve Confederate grave markers and other cemetery features at Cedar Hill.

In fact, the cemetery’s Pokemon traffic has created ruts in the grass that even those who aren’t playing the game might now construe as a sanctioned driveway.

There is an online form for asking game developer Niantic to remove a Pokestop, and we would not be surprised to hear such a request has been made for one or more of the locations at Cedar Hill.

Whether the company will do so or not remains to be seen. However, reasonable and considerate Pokemon players can take the easy intermediate step of recognizing that cemeteries might not be the most appropriate places for games, especially when those games result in damage to public property.