Contemplating death with Colin Powell
A memento mori, inspired by a man who died with blood on his hands
Colin Powell did war crimes about as competently as anyone else in his position would have done them. For all his personal ambition and accomplishments, he was just fulfilling the duties of his job.
At home and in his relationships to the people he loved, he was by all accounts a decent man. In his personal life he was actually irreplaceable.
"We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American," his family said in a prepared statement after he died Monday at age 84.
Reading the obituaries for the Bush-era secretary of state and Iraq War co-conspirator this week, I was struck by the two modes of talking about Colin Powell: in his public capacity, where he was morally bankrupt but completely replaceable; and in his capacity as a friend and family man, where he was the only person for the job. Both modes have their merits. On a smaller scale, we will all be remembered in those same two modes.