"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Birthdays Today

Today, somewhat astonishingly, would have been the 85th birthday of Marilyn Monroe.   I always think it's bittersweet to recall, as I often do on this blog, great beauties of earlier eras, particularly when they died young, like Monroe.   You can't help thinking that, if she had had a more supporting family, or a more loving husband, or children she could love, or, perhaps most important, a spiritual life in her church, her life might not have ended in senseless tragedy.   Now all we have are the pictures:

Today is also the birthday of John Marshall Harlan, the famous Justice of the Supreme Court, who was born in 1833, and who was the lone dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the case that enshrined "separate but equal" as the legal principle justifying the South's Jim Crow laws and segregation throughout America, until reversed in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), three generations later.    Here is the most famous passage from Harlan's dissent:
The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty. But in view of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved...
Words to live by.

Finally, it's also Andy Griffith's birthday, who is 85 today himself.   Griffith is, of course, best known for his own TV show in the 1960s, playing Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, but he burst on the scene as a serious actor in the drama A Face in the Crowd in 1957, playing "Lonesome Rhodes," a ne'er-do-well country boy who rises to become a political demogogue.   Here's a clip:

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