Jewish World Review Oct. 17, 2005 / 14 Tishrei, 5766

Paul Greenberg

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Consumer Reports

It was wholly a pleasure . . . | Dear Connoisseur,

It was wholly a pleasure to find you'd followed my culinary recommendation and tried my favorite diner, the Sno-White Grill in Pine Bluff, Ark., though I was sad to hear you hadn't found it wholly a pleasure.

It seems you'd been grievously disappointed in the burger-and-fries. Your verdict: too greasy.

You were equally unimpressed when you came back the next day and had a BLT. I wouldn't know about that item.

You say you now realize why I'm a columnist and not a food editor. (For which, I, too, am grateful.)

But you confess: "Then again, I'm a dang Yankee, so what do I know?"

What can I say? Next time try the tofu.


Dear Critic,

It is wholly a pleasure to reply to your compliment on a recent column of mine you thought quite fine — one pointing out how closely interwoven religious ideas are with the American ethos.

But you are puzzled because in other columns I seem to be for the separation of church and state but not against the separation of religious ideas from our public discourse or even public policy.

That makes sense to me, for I try to distinguish between the wholesome role religious ideas can play in civic life as opposed to the danger of letting religious institutions share political power.

You find that approach inconsistent, if not schizoid. And while you like some of my columns, you find that "the belief system behind them just doesn't seem to be consistent. They have the same tone and style of writing but seem to be written from different belief systems. This English teacher would surely question a student about the authorship of writings that vary to this degree in philosophy. I would think someone else was writing for the student or that he/she was one mixed up kid . . . ."

The columns you agree with, it turns out, are quite wonderful. The ones you disagree with are not. Somehow I'm not surprised. That's the human condition.

Me, I find your views utterly consistent, but that's not necessarily a compliment. I like something old Walt Whitman said, and I fancy it applies to each of us to one degree or another: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."

Best wishes from one mixed-up kid,

Dear Anonymous,

I can't say it was wholly a pleasure to get your letter upbraiding me for all my many political sins, but I needed that.

After all Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement — is almost upon us. Every year it creeps up like an indictment waiting to be unsealed. Or, if I'm lucky again, a life-saving pardon. All I can do is throw myself on the all-mercy of the Court. (Happily, I have an in with the Judge, for I know He loves me, and there are no bounds to his everlasting grace.)

So I plead guilty to your accusations, though I think blaming all the troubles in the country, and maybe the world, on me and my co-conspirators — mainly George W. Bush — may be to paint with too broad a brush.

As an editor of the National Review put it the other day, some of us used to think Democrats were capable of blaming this president for everything but the weather. But after Katrina, we may have to rethink that position.

Nevertheless, you've got me pretty well dead to rights. I've lied, cheated and stolen, especially in my long-ago adolescent years before I realized how unsatisfying such sins are. (I mean, what's the point?)

You're right: I'm pretty much a low-life and, even worse, pretty much a Republican. Yet despite my many sins, there is one scummy level to which I've never sunk. I've never sent an anonymous letter.

It's a small point of pride, but even the lowliest of us deserve to have at least one. As sorry a sinner as I am, that sorry I'm not. My sins may be many (whose are few?) but I'll fess up to them rather than hide my name.

Just about the best motto I've run across in the masthead of a daily newspaper is this sentence penned by Gene Howe, founder of the Amarillo (Tex.) Globe: "A newspaper can be forgiven for lack of wisdom, but never for lack of courage."

Clearly signed,

Inky Wretch

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. All the quotations in this column were culled from Tuesday's edition of the Democrat-Gazette. Send your comments by clicking here.

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