Saturday, July 16, 2022

The R-Word

This week there’s been some hubbub about a local political endorsement which leaned heavily on Jim Rouse’s name in an attempt to assert credibility. The subsequent discussions were mostly about who has the correct ideology to invoke the name of Rouse.

I object. I would like to be done with this practice now and forever. I have decided to create a new term for this: “Rouse-signalling”.*

My objection is to anyone trotting out Jim Rouse’s name when it serves them - - especially when they want to win something - - as though it’s a celebrity endorsement. I felt the same way about The Rouse Project. I do wonder every so often what Rouse would think of various goings-on today. Of course, if it were possible, it would be fascinating to get his take on the here and now. 

But that’s not how life works. And I’m guessing he didn’t think he was God. He probably thought we’d be able to stand on our own feet by now, but: who knows? 

At least, I think we should.

Right now in Baltimore there’s a new musical, “Do It Now!” about a larger than life figure in that city’s history: Donald Schaefer. Here’s a piece from Sue Kopen Katcef for MPT that touches on Schaefer, the musical, and the process of how it came about. (Added bonus: HoCo local Wendy Baird is in the cast. See if you can spot her.)


If you don’t have time to watch the entire piece (approximately three and a half minutes) go to the three minutes ten seconds mark or thereabouts where the composer describes what he hope the audience will take away from the musical. It’s possible to be be aspirational in looking at the life of a local icon without making a god out of him.

As an aside, I’d totally be up for a local production of “Rouse! The Musical” if it gave the protagonist the right to be human.

If you think it’s sacrilegious to compare Schaefer to Rouse, my apologies. My intent is to suggest that it’s a healthy response to people like this if their lives can prompt us to think. It’s unhealthy to make gods out of them and plop them down into political discourse to win points.

Back to Rouse. It’s counterproductive to use his memory to sell things. If you want to convince me to vote for you, you need to be a strong enough candidate in your own right that you don’t need to use Rouse as a crutch, or a kind of deus ex machina celebrity endorser. Enough already.

I propose that henceforth in Columbia/HoCo, all candidates of any stripe take the No-Rouse pledge. Yes, everybody. No more turning in his grave, no more raising him from the dead. Let that man rest from his labors. He has earned it.

As always, please direct comments here:

*Or, perhaps: “Rouse-baiting”?

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