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Charles Meredith: A birthday game about history – mostly


Dear Friends,

Good morning. Last week, our daughters, Anne and Catherine, celebrated their 57th and 54th birthdays, respectfully. Anne and her wife, China, spent a few days with us, which was great fun. On one of the evening dinners, Anne asked a provocative question

“If you could invite five people from any time period for a conversation, whom would you choose?” Anne asked.

The people gathered around our dinner table were: Mighty Betsy, Anne and Catherine, China, our head caregiver Alice Agnew, and I. Each of us named five people. There were U.S. presidents, dictators, musicians, writers and family relatives from throughout the ages … 25 in all.

Daughter Anne listed: Anne Frank, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, John Lennon, Ida B. Wells (the black journalist who lived from 1862 to 1931 and won a Pulitzer Prize for writing about civil rights and lynchings in the South.)

Daughter Catherine chose Jesus, George Harrison, Beethoven, Lincoln and her paternal grandfather.

China picked Diane Arbus (American photographer from the 1950s to 1970s); Nina Simone (civil rights activist, pianist and singer, denied admission to the Juilliard School of Music because she was black), Robert Frank, the Suisse photographer who drove across America with his children taking thousands of pictures; Julia Child and Wolfgang Mozart.

Alice chose William Shakespeare, John Lennon, her father, and her great-grandmother who was a mail-order bride during the Western expansion.

I selected Jesus, Julius Caesar, Beethoven, Lincoln and Obama.

We spent several fascinating hours discussing the merits of our choices. I recommend this exercise to everyone.

Turning to another subject, here’s a critical letter from Daniel Gilligan of Milford, N.J.

“I like a local paper and remember when the Hunterdon County Democrat took 45 minutes to read,” his letter began. “I read your column and, like the letters section of the Bucks County Herald, recognize the liberal perspective that these parts of the paper present.

“I get it; I’ve read the New York Times for years but finally called it quits with the 1619 Project, but I digress. I am compelled to write at your simple pearl clutching, and nothing else, in your May 7 column. You quote people who make legitimate argument about positive actions taken by President Trump and you respond with the sarcastic Really?” Really! and Really!”

“You know that such low sarcasm does not suffice as argument, debate, or even adult response. And your comment about the Brooklyn Bridge is archaic and banal … I suspect Bugs Bunny would return the royalty.

“I can only surmise that you, like most journalists, presume to think that your readers are uniformly against Trump, and you need only offer them a smirk of confirmation. I’ll presume to speak for the approximately one half of the country who support Trump, (and as a business owner I can tell you anecdotally that it is this one half that own businesses and are not government employees, employ people, and pay taxes; in other words, the backbone of the country), and tell you that your choosing to quote serious people, but doing so in your unserious forum, is simply not respected.

“And it is only the opinions of those for whom we have any respect and hold in any regard that are given any consideration, or hold any consequence. Keep it up Charles; this type of weak tea converts no one to your position but rather quite possibly may do the opposite; it’s not exclusively Republicans who see a small tactic.”

And Mr. Gilligan added a postscript. “This is written to encourage you to recognize some good in Conservative thought, which is the mindset of our Founders, and towards that I recommend the Claremont Review of Books, particularly the review of Chris Caldwell’s newest book. I have no expectation that you will publish this and appreciate your time in reading.”

Mr. Gilligan, as Americans it is good, indeed necessary, for us to have vigorous and healthy discourse about opposing political views. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t flag your mentioning that you stopped reading The New York Times once they began running the Pulitzer-prize winning series, “The 1619 Project.” The legacy of slavery in our country is still painfully with us in 2020. Turning your back on historians telling simple truths about slavery makes sense, since you are also choosing to turn your back on simple truths about our current administration. Nevertheless, I appreciate your letter.

By the way Mr. Gilligan, you are wrong about Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than two million. What saved the day for Mr. Trump was his victory in the electoral college.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith

P.S. Someone asked me if I knew what a post turtle was? I didn’t but found this answer courtesy of Wikipedia: “When you’re driving down a country road and you see a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a post turtle. You know he didn’t get up there by himself. He doesn’t belong there; you wonder who put him there; he can’t get anything done while he’s up there; and you just want to help the poor, dumb thing down.”

I thought I should share this gem with you.