Friday, February 22, 2013

Rouse's Plagiarists (Friday LINKS)

Most people don't know this, but there are actually two applications of the term plagiarism.  The first is the most common - representing another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" as your own without attribution.  The other, and much more malicious, is quoting someone as saying something they did not say.

If you take something from this blog and use it elsewhere without attribution, I will be ticked off, but probably get over it in a day.

If you quote me as saying something I did not say, I will be furious.  I will feel victimized.  But at the very least, I will be able to correct the misattribution with my own voice and authority, most likely to your detriment.

When we leave this world, we leave little more than what we did and what we said.  It is our legacy.  Our only lasting mark.  We may have had a really nice car or an odd habit of wearing technicolor sports coats, but those trappings will fall away in the public memory within a decade.  What we do or say rarely depends on others to sustain them.  They find a way to sustain themselves.

Jim Rouse died in 1996.  When he died, the last census would have pegged Columbia at 75,883 people.  Enclosed shopping malls were still a great decision.  If you were shopping online, you would have to do so without the benefit of a photograph, because that could take an hour or two...and may time out just as the last pixels are coming into focus.  It was boom-time in America and the suburbs were sprouting up McMansions by the dozen.  In fact, I imagine that during this period, Columbia may have felt a bit left out.  Looked over.  Too dense, even.

But Jim Rouse was a giant amongst men.  He was an idealist.  Jim Rouse was a "founder" when it felt like everything had already been found.  There would be statues made and his memory would be cherished by all for generations to come.

Jim Rouse died in 1996.  He took his voice with him.  More importantly, outside of hundreds of notebooks, correspondence, and schematics, he took his guidance with him.  This orphan City, planned to be something great, told it would be something great, went to stasis.  Ever since that day, new leaders have tried to fill the void, but without the voice of a founder, they would never be able to.

Instead, Jim Rouse has been plagiarized.  We are told what he would have loved and what he would have hated.  Not in 1996, but today, when every person has a shopping mall in their pocket and the suburbs are filled with empty mansions.  We are buffeted by these representations as encouragement to make or destroy laws, policies, and development decisions.  These aren't just interpretations, but rather positions represented as fact.  "Jim Rouse would have (blank)."

We would never do this if Rouse were sick, or merely out of town, because, in those circumstances, he would be able to speak for himself.  He could refute or affirm the representation.  He could tell us when statements purportedly made by him were wrongfully attributed.  Jim Rouse himself could tell us what he loved or hated.  Whether he was inspired by a new proposal, or felt it lacked substance.  Jim Rouse could even tell us if he was a little tired of Columbia politics and would rather see what is going on in the Florida Keys.  That would be his right and privilege to do.  We've stolen it from him.

We've stolen from a man we supposedly love and admire.  We've stolen his voice and used it for our own purposes.  We've made a victim out of him.  That is shameful.

 It is the right of family members to say what a deceased relative would have wanted.  It provides comfort and presence.  I don't intend this post to be critical of that in any way.  But we really need to leave Jim alone.  He served our community more than any person probably ever will for as long as Columbia is a spot on the map.  His service is complete.  Let him rest.  And leave him his voice.


Big wow of the day - Andrea Siegel of the Baltimore Sun writes that HoCo EDA Chief Laura Neuman has been selected to serve out the remaining two year term for Anne Arundel County Executive.  That's impressive.  Well Laura, we hardly knew ye.  Best of luck.

The Maryland Death Penalty Repeal will go to the full Senate after passing through the House Judiciary Committee.  As with any large legislative body, getting through committee is the hard part.  Most pundits are saying that there are enough votes in the Senate to make it through, even with the tepid support of Senate President Mike Miller.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: WB notes that many in Anne Arundel were surprised by the Neuman pick, but that she may have provided the best "second choice" among a fractured County Council.  I will say that there was a least one person in the Ulman Administration who had this picked last weekend, describing Neuman as "the consensus pick" to me via text.

UPDATE: Before I forget, the deadline for applying to Leadership U is Friday, March 8.  This is a fantastic program for inspiring our young leaders of today (not tomorrow) and I would be more than happy to endorse this program for anyone who is on the fence.  If you know a young leader, or want to give an inspiring young person a few more tools in their toolkit, please direct them to Leadership U.
That's all for today.  I hope to see a number of you at the Howard County Library this Saturday!

Have a great Friday doing what you love!  It's impossible not to.