Saturday, January 3, 2009

Roland Burris, Creativity, And Monuments For Dead People

The unusually elaborate gravesite that Roland Burris built for himself has attracted a bit of attention. Personally, I don't feel that designing a gravesite like this for oneself is a sign of bad character. It's natural to try to overcome one's impermanence in the face of mortality by building something permanent about oneself. Naming your children Roland and Rolanda strikes me as a bit more of an excessive ego kind of move, but still, whatever.

What annoys me about monuments like this is the lack of creativity and personal flair. I can't read the inscription, but it looks like it's just a bunch of political achievements. Fifty years later, you see this monument and you think, 'Here lies a dude who was good at scoring himself offices. Good for him, I guess, but I don't see why I should like the guy. Sure, I'm rooting for him because his success represents the overcoming of some historical injustices, but I'm rooting more for the historical forces at play than the guy himself.'

It'd be different with somebody who built a monument of himself, say, riding an ostrich. I'd see a monument like that and think, 'Here's a guy who was probably a lot of fun to hang out with, and who's still trying to amuse people fifty years after his death.' It would actually feel kind of like he was alive. And really, you don't have to do anything that silly -- I'm sure there's something cool in Burris' life connected to his achievements that would give me a better sense of him as a person.
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