I didn't attend the celebration of Jim Rouse's 100th birthday last night at Merriweather. Sunday presented a rare opportunity for me to not have anything to do with my evening and with a day that saw me write a book chapter, update my resume, clean the house, do dishes, and play and umpire softball for three hours, I decided to stay home and have the evening to myself.
That, and.... I'm not a big James Rouse fan. I am a fan in terms of how he used his business skills on projects that took advantage of the changing social mores of the times. (See Columbia.) And on how he banked on cities for some of his most well-known work, as opposed to continuing with the crowd and building into the ever-expanding suburbs. Well, Columbia being an exception to that, actually. It strikes me that cities could use a Jim Rouse or two today, but I digress.
The Jim Rouse I am not a fan of is the father of our town, great visionary, he who bought that wonderful, only one like it on the planet Utopia into our midst. Because that is something that simply doesn't exist. Some people call Rouse a "statesman". No he wasn't. That implies he brought something to government or created government. And he didn't.
I had a feeling that some of those who feel that the "Rouse dream" represents a divine covenant that must be protected at all costs would use the occasion to beat their swollen with pride chests and do some sort of moronic protest against the redevelopment of Symphony Woods. It apparently wasn't overt but it would seem from the reports of others that the enemies of the Inner Arbor were in the house. Beware, fellow Inner Arborphiles, because it would appear the caterpillar is under attack! They will take down the caterpillar first. What a ridiculous sentence I have just written.
Here's what I feel about Jim Rouse. I met and spoke with the man so that gives me more standing than some of these progress haters to say this.
I feel Jim Rouse was a savvy businessman who, with his partners, saw a huge piece of rural property between two of the 10 most populous cities in the US at the time, and bought up a ton of land for the purposes of creating a new town. And in order to attract people to this new concept the town was marketed not as a place for returning veterans, as so many suburbs had been created. Rather, it was created as a place for people of a new generation to settle. The generation that came of age in the 50s and early 60s. Recall please that the greatest social change of the 60s came at the time Columbia was being formed, and its infancy.
And, just as the vision of Columbia was adapted to fit the time, so must it be readapted to fit the current time. The original plan of Columbia was not targeting those who had come of age during the Great Depression. Imagine what would've been built had that been the case. No, Columbia appealed to a different, more diverse vision. And that must continue today. And again, and again, and again, for generations I will never see live.
Happy start to Teacher Appreciation Week!
Let's be careful out there.