Sunday, December 15, 2013

Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland - With a Special Guest Appearance by Nelson Mandela

The question to Philip Galanes who writes the Social Q's column in the Sunday Styles section of the Times is of no relevance except to set context (and the italics, by the way, are from the typesetting at the Times..
Here’s my situation: Two sisters have been enemies for years. Neither one speaks to the other. Recently, their father, who lives far away, was found to have cancer and admitted to the hospital. One of the sisters knows about his condition, but the other doesn’t because the father made the one he told promise not to tell her sister or anyone else in the family. Should this promise be kept? Doesn’t the sister who knows have a duty to tell the other?
Galanes says the answer is no, except that maybe it's yes.  That's the sort of answer experienced lawyers are inclined to give since we know that the correct answer to every legal question is 
It depends.
But I digress.  As I will continue to digress for a moment to give you, Oh reader, and me a moment to reflect on the sort of person who would write such a question and expect the answer to resolve anything.  A good friend once floated the idea for a sure-thing money making service: 

Dial an Authoritarian 
Have a question?  Need a definitive answer?  Call now.  Operators are standing by. Call in the next 10 minutes and get one answer free for every three questions.
Q Steak or chicken tonight?A Steak.  Q Should I wallpaper the bathroom?A Never.Q The red tie or the green one?A Green.Q Should I have another child?A No. Q Divorce?A Absolutely.
Anyhow, after the no and yes answer, Galanes adds this.
And while we’re on the subject of ancient grudges, pick your lane: feuding sisters, like old Hollywood’s Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (who gave each other the silent treatment for 40 years over a measly Oscar statuette), or forward-looking forgivers like Nelson Mandela, who figured out the grace and power that comes with forgiveness. Your sister may still be a misery, but if you haven’t reached out to her lately, maybe it’s time to take another crack.
Which, in a different context, is what I've written here repeatedly. If Mandela could do it, well, we can at least strive toward it.

One of the first, if not the first, decision of South Africa's constitutional court under its new constitution (which was modeled on ours) was to declare that the death penalty was unconstitutional.

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