The Legacy Thing
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley
The time has come to speak of Legacy.
There are many definitions, most speak of a "gift left to future generations."
Legacy is that which endures when the person is gone. Legacy endures longer than memory.
Legacy is the history you write for yourself. You can change your Legacy every day you live.
Then others will dissect it and report it for you.
Legacy is the accumulated and resulting meme of one's objective, historical record.
Very simple and ordinary people leave quite a profound Legacy.
I don't like the current cultural infatuation with celebrity journalists. As Wonkette recently wrote, the sublime has indeed given way to the ridiculous; now we have "Celebrity Journalist Decries Celebrity Journalism!"
But there is a young journalist today playing an interesting dual role in the realm of Legacy today. His name is Dahr Jamail, and he is an "unembedded" journalist reporting out of Iraq. His frank and honest reporting of what he has seen in that country is moving, even shocking, and certainly important. On one hand, Jamail is establishing his own legacy. At the same time, his reporting threatens to recast the POTUS' legacy as well.
Starting wars, whether you lose them or win them, is a good way to build a Legacy.
Luckily, not too many people really get the chance to start a war.
We don't think of war building anything. But wars can build. They build a record of words. They build a record of images (caution: graphic images). They build a hope that if we read the record, we might once and for all realize that war really is hell.
National leaders are expected to "leave a Legacy." The current POTUS claims not to care about his Legacy.
Since you have a chance to leave a Legacy, and famous people have even more likelihood of being said to leave a Legacy, it really seems that everyone of us should try to leave the best Legacy we can.
I am sitting in a room full of agriculture sector folks and renewable energy folks. The place is awash in thoughts of Legacy. Farmers wondering if they will be able to pass their farming Legacy to their children. Renewable energy folks wondering if they will leave a Legacy of a cleaner energy future--and whether the farmers will help them.
In Washington, D.C., the POTUS wants to leave his own Legacy. He called for a Legacy of nuclear power; of refineries on abandoned military bases; of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve; of tax breaks for diesel cars; of liquified natural gas terminals.
Here is an idea more in track with my own thoughts:
"The right of citizens of the United States to use and enjoy air, water, wildlife, and other renewable resources determined by the Congress to be common property shall not be impaired, nor shall such use impair their availability for the use of future generations."
This is the language of the proposed US Constitutional "Seventh Generation Amendment."
If we can all leave a Legacy, what Legacy would we leave?