Posted by brotherkharma on July 15, 2009
Legacy. It’s an odd word. It used to mean, according to Merriam Webster, “a gift by will” or “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past”. Well, as with so many words, politicians have annihilated that as well. Legacy now means the way today’s media would like historians to judge a current political figure. Please don’t confuse this with their actual legacy, which is what they have transmitted to our culture and posterity.
Take for example, and I do hesitate to invoke the name, President Clinton. I am not, in any way attempting to link the current administration to Clinton’s. For one thing, Clinton was much better about doing a poll driven 180° policy turn and convincing a lot of people this was the original direction. That brings me rambling along to something like making a point. (I understand that is what I’m supposed to do with these blogs, go figure). Enough time has passed that we can begin to honestly evaluate the Clinton legacy.
To do this, we will need to look at the “Webster” legacy, and the “Network” legacy. First, the network legacy. I will paraphrase a few things; sort of quote a source occasionally. You know, real, hard hitting modern journalism. There is a NY Times article, “Striking Strengths, Glaring Shortcomings”, that is one of many attempts to describe the former President as someone who tried really hard. He had to overcome a public that just didn’t trust the executive branch after the 12 years before him. They actually referred to his “modest domestic initiatives” in the same paragraph as “his effort to overhaul the nation’s health care system”. They refer to his poll driven policies as navigating between the left and the right. The gist of most of the major news outlets view of the administration is that he was a likeable guy, bad husband, and the only really practical person in Washington. Their version of his legacy is that conservatives learned to move to the left because of him, and those who disagreed with his practical policies had to attack his personal life. The impeachment was, after all, the result of Ken Starr being a pervert and a prude (with no explanation how you are both).
Watching some of the recent news of the day is what prompted me on this rambling. I am seeing more of the true legacy. To be fair, it is not all directly from the former President, but what I see is the result of both his actions and those who rushed to his defense. In 1988, there were several prominent Democrats running for their party’s nomination. In these pre-Clinton days, reports of Gary Hart’s affair on the yacht Monkey Business was more than enough to run him out of the race, and politics. That same year, another Senator running for office was discovered to have plagiarized a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock, as well as a number of papers while in law school. He was disgraced and withdrew from the race (although he did provide me with a good joke for my brother’s wedding toast) and was very quiet for a long time. Now, in the post Clinton days, that man is Vice-President. I look at the Governors of New York, New Jersey, and South Carolina and I hear people saying it’s their personal life. In New York, Eliot Spitzer is actually being considered as a viable candidate.
We used to look for leaders, for people to inspire the nation to greatness. I can’t stand to hear one more talking head tell me that our politicians are just like the rest of us. That’s not leadership. George Washington was not like the rest of us. Most people would have taken the opportunity to become the first American King, or Emperor. Why do we tolerate (and don’t get me started on the new definition of that word) mediocre leadership? I see the messages battering my children that some sex is not sex, and anything you do in private is OK. Spin is OK. I’m sorry but spin is just a soft way to say lying through your teeth. My kids have been told (not at home) that there are times in life when a little lie is the right thing to do. Let me repeat that. They have been told that sometimes a lie is the right thing to do. As long as you avoid offending anyone, and spin it right, just say what you need to say and get past the situation. Of course, if you botch it, there is a guaranteed fix. If you actually do something that someone considers wrong, and get caught, you must apologize. It should go something along the lines of “To the extent that anyone may have taken offense at what I said, although I never intended to offend them, I apologize.” Apologize for someone else’s actions too, while you’re at it. Can’t hurt.
So in the end, I am trying to raise my kids to learn the lesson of the only legacy that truly matters. I understand that this gets me labeled with all sorts of horrible titles, but I still do it. It is a true legacy, a “gift transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past”. The world has the legacy of Christ, handed directly down from Him through Saint Peter. I will hitch my wagon to that, and let the others try to build on the media legacy.