We run a risk when we entrust our legacy to ourselves. I’m thinking in particular about our penchant for putting faith in monuments and celebrities. I’m thinking, first, about Donald Trump and Ellen Axsom Wilson.
Trump, for decades. has plastered his name on skyscrapers and aircraft; one-upped public officials in speech; showed off for cameras; and currently makes a mockery of civil discourse while seeking the world’s grandest stage. Mrs. Wilson, on the other hand, presided with quiet grace as First Lady during one of our nation’s troubling times; has an oft-visited gravesite in Rome’s historic Myrtle Hill Cemetery and a prominent portrait in the local library. Just a couple of weeks ago, she was honored with the unveiling of a statue on the Towne Green in downtown Rome.
One went quietly and lives on. The other lives on noisily, but to what good? Does Trump even care about how history will remember him? Ellen Wilson probably didn’t give it much thought, and therein lies the distinction.
Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was briefly popular on the evangelical supper circuit, with her theme of “there is a higher power than the United States Supreme Court.” On its surface, that is undoubtedly true, but it’s not as Biblical as she likes to think. And when you go jail for only a handful of days … well, sorry, but Nelson Mandela sort of trumps you in the legacy department.
Bill Cosby, whom we came to think of as, first, a father figure and later a grandfather figure, who did as much to reconcile the races as Jackie Robinson or Nat King Cole before him, is a serial rapist. He didn’t use superior musculature to overwhelm his victims, or his status and power to threaten them into submission – as much as he drugged them out of consciousness. That is rape, and it is heinous. There’s no euphemism for it.
I loved Bill Cosby growing up. I played his comedy albums on my record player almost as much as I played The Beach Boys and The Beatles. I can’t laugh anymore.
Above that record player, with the scent of honeysuckle and the lullaby of a running creek through open windows on summer evenings, hung a portrait of Robert E. Lee, a man that I knew I was supposed to revere for some reason, even though he was on the wrong side of a war I was just learning about. But he was among our beloved.
Which is why he is the lead Rebel on the carving in the granite outcrop we call Stone Mountain. In the wake of the murders of folks at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by an avowed racist, there was renewed vigor and success to remove the Confederate battle flag from government grounds. Emboldened, some are now calling for the Stone Mountain carving to be sand-blasted into nothingness.
Such cries miss the point. The carving no longer honors the Confederacy; it is more a curiosity, an answer to trivia questions. The mountain itself is no longer a rallying point for the Ku Klux Klan. The great lawn below is instead a popular, multi-racial picnic spot. That’s more erasure than sand-blasting could ever accomplish.
Let that be its legacy.
I have to hand it to Georgia Power, and I’m not talking just about the hard-earned dollars I hand over every month for the privilege of electricity. I have said this before: Georgia Power is very good at what it does. Depending on your mood, you can take that a couple of ways.
While I was writing this column, my power went out, and I only had a few minutes left on my phone’s battery. I called Georgia Power to report the outage, and was impressed with how efficiently the automated response menu recognized my location.
Then, in less than two minutes, I got a text from Georgia Power that began with “a known outage caused by a tree.” Not, “a tree fell onto a power line” or something else understandable. I wound up laughing at the wording “caused by a tree.” It left open the possibility that a tree uprooted itself, walked over to my home, and pulled a plug from a socket…
This development didn’t take long … Just three days after luxury automaker Mercedes-Benz announced that it had bought the naming rights to Arthur Blank’s still-on-the-drawing-board playroom for his Atlanta Falcons, the Southeastern Conference announced it would play its highly coveted championship game there through 2026. Mind-boggling as that is, it does give other states plenty of time to build a more luxurious facility to lure away college football’s jackpot game. I hear there’s plenty of parking in downtown Starkville.
(In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that 1, I once owned a [used] Mercedes-Benz. I think it was the only clunker that ever rolled off their assembly line; and, 2, I once met Arthur Blank. I rose, extended my hand, and said, “How are you, sir?” Arthur turned to a member of his entourage and said, “Where are MY seats?” I had connections, you see, that even Arthur didn’t know about.)
Forbes magazine just placed the Falcons’ value at $1.67 billion. That’s more than three times what Blank paid ($545 million) for the franchise 13 years ago. The Falcons’ valued ranked 17th on Forbes’ list. First was the Dallas Cowboys at $4 billion.
On the topic of high rollers, the effort to bring legalized gambling to Georgia is gaining traction like never before. Lobbyists from several casino groups are circling Georgia lawmakers before the General Assembly convenes in January. The casinos’ pitch is that Georgia would reap a financial windfall, a worthwhile risk. But lawmakers have to worry about elections, and you can expect, between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the first rumblings from conservative moralists in opposition to rolling the dice.
J. Bryant Steele has won awards for business reporting, feature writing and opinion columns, and is based in Rome.
*The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.