It began like this:
Jim Rouse would hate what has been done to downtown Columbia.
It went on:
...if Jim Rouse was in charge...
And so I wondered. And then I asked:
Were you a close personal friend of Jim Rouse?
My reasons for asking were two-fold. First, I’m fascinated by stories about early Columbia. If someone has personal experiences to share, I’m interested. Second, I am legitimately curious as to whether people who invoke Rouse’s name actually knew him. Do their convictions come from a first-hand relationship or from a strong gut feeling? That makes a difference to me.
The person I asked took my question at face value and responded in kind.
I met and had conversations with him several times. I moved to Columbia in 1973, and at that time it was not uncommon to have closer contact with the developers and leadership of the community.
It was going along just fine until a third party stepped in.
What an unnecessary, snarky comment.
My assurances that my question was sincere were rejected.
You know exactly the intent of your question.
I do know my intent, though this person did not. I wanted to know more. I wanted to understand the relationship between being sure one knows what Rouse would have wanted and knowing the man himself. Not to mock or to discredit, but to understand.
But this person felt the need to call me out for having bad intentions. They weren’t interested at all in seeing things any other way. This was a discussion in which the good guys and the bad guys had already been predetermined and I had dared to challenge the boundaries.
Ah well. It’s not all sweetness and light in the New American City.
I don’t think it is unnecessary or snarky to want to know if people actually knew the person they are invoking to pass judgement on Columbia of the present day. I think it should be a part of the conversation.
Here is another question that should be a part of the conversation:
Why is it even necessary to invoke Rouse at all?
But I’m not going back to ask that question. Once burned, and all that.