Foote argues that responses to tragic sites generally fit somewhere along this continuum, keeping in mind that the categories are not fixed:
- Sanctification: creation of a ‘sacred’ space
- Designation: the use of markers to acknowledge the location of an event
- Rectification: the return of the space to operable condition
- Obliteration: effacement of evidence of tragedy from a space
Foote is also interested in the creation of a civic identity via imprinting memory on the landscape. He argues that the "social meaning of a space often correlates with a larger narrative privileged by the locale or nation," so that sites of violence or tragedy often get wrapped up in the creation of a particular place-based identity. Memorials at places associated with the Texas Revolution of 1836 show how state and regional identity emerge over time; remembering the Great Fire of 1871 in Chicago helps create an origin myth and a civic identity; sites marking the Mormon flight to Utah anchor the development of a religious identity in place. Foote also points out that those events that don't support the national narrative or that acknowledge shame or conflict rarely get marked: labor struggles, the internment of the Japanese, the historic treatment of Native Americans and African Americans, and Civil Rights turbulence are largely rendered invisible because they don't fit in with the heroic national narratives.
Foote argues that, read through the American landscapes of memory, violence and tragedy can both construct civic unity and divide society into winners and losers, and that "this irony - that violence and tragedy can both unify and divide - rests like a shadow across the American dream." While I agree with him that we should mark more sites of tragic events or events that don't fit the heroic national narrative, I would argue that we'd need to think carefully about what to include. I'm not sure that marking every event ever is a good use of tax dollars, even if it could lead to more individual or cultural catharsis. Perhaps widening the net just a little and complicating the narratives behind existing sites would be a good middling solution?