Wednesday, January 30, 2013

*for the man i've become / not the man that i was

I always wonder about how we judge people of influence who lead visible and affecting lives. I read the obituary of Harry Callico today: he served on the Virginia Supreme Court for 42 years and wrote the Loving v. Virginia decision in 1966 that was overturned by the US Supreme Court in 1967. I often use Loving v. Virginia to represent the recency of some of the last civil rights decisions in America. I was two. I was alive when the Supreme Court struck down laws against interracial marriage; I’m not old – I’m going to a concert tonight. The point is that it hasn’t been that long.

But, that’s not really the point of this entry. It was early-ish in Carrico’s career (he was seated on the court in 1961) that he wrote the Loving opinion, and he then served another 36 years. A number of interviewees say in the obit that he would not have ruled the way he did if he’d been faced with that choice in years, and that he’d changed. And, let’s say he did, it doesn’t matter so much right now. We can say he changed, we can say he was a product of his time, or any other reason, but it won’t answer my question. When influential people are involved in horrible decisions early in life are they are better off in our remembrances than those that do so at the end of life? Is that short timeline at the end of one’s life simply not enough time to defend an act (Joe Paterno)? Does it matter what exactly that you’ve done? Is it impossible for us to step back and see the entire package before resigning someone to the scrap heap of one act or one decision? Can one bad thing override everything that may have come before or after?

Of course, we could ask the same question of ourselves.

Okay. That’s more than one question.

(*Avett Brothers / The Perfect Space)

1 comment:

JMo said...
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