Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Madame

Washington has its share of "grande dames." I visited with one the night before she died.

Yesterday morning, before dawn, Antonia Morgan passed away in her uptown Washington apartment, following a long illness. She was 91. "Sal" had been her live-in caregiver for over four months, and was up the whole night as Mrs Morgan struggled with her final breaths.

Outside the public eye, it could have been said that Mrs Morgan lived in interesting times. Raised in a educated and distinguished English family, she married an American officer stationed there during World War II. But there was more to her life. It was her daughter, the noted cosmetic surgeon Jean Elizabeth Morgan, who was the subject of the 1991 book by Jonathan Groner, Hilary's Trial: The Elizabeth Morgan Case: A Child's Ordeal in America's Legal System, and the 1992 television movie A Mother's Right: The Elizabeth Morgan Story. The mother was played by Bonnie Bedelia. In an excellent choice of casting, the part of Mrs Morgan was played by Patricia Neal. In 1996, Congress finally vindicated the mother by passing "The Elizabeth Morgan Act."

Mrs Morgan was a formidable, well-bred, and well-educated woman. You read about them now and then, the type for whom time never erases their grace or presence. This was evident in her final hours. When I dropped Sal off at the residence that evening, I went up for a brief visit. While it was obvious that Mrs Morgan was deteriorating, and that she was resigned to the inevitable, she was keen enough to draw my attention to her vast library, and asked me to pull The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations off the shelf. There was something she wanted to show her son when he came later that evening. She went directly to a collection of sayings attributed to King Charles II, and settled on the final listing:

"He had been, he said, an unconscionable time dying; but he hoped that they would excuse it." *

"I'm sure that would make a fitting epitaph," I told her. She understood.

+ + +

* from Macaulay's History of England, 1849, I, 4, 437

13 Comments:

At 5/02/2006 05:13:00 AM, Anonymous Andrew Morrow said...

I have thought of Antonia often over the past year, ever since I started to write

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Morgan

when first I learned her name. My instinct tells me that she was not a neutral party in the destruction of the relationship between Dr. Foretich and his daughter. She may have been a woman with fine qualities, but that destruction is all she will ever be remembered for by History. Soon enough, everything else about her will be forgotten.

The Elizabeth Morgan Act was an unconstiutional act of Congress. It was a mistake for Rep. Tom Davis to sponsor it and, based on talking to his staff, I assure you all that if he were to see Dr. Morgan or (in earlier days) her mother walking on down the street, he would cross the other side just to avoid them. Their status was rarely thrust into their faces in public, but, despite their grace and beauty, they were pariahs.

These two women are very intelligent but I am afraid that History's verdict will be that their great failing was that, despite their dazzling talents, they thought too much of themselves and their own opinions and that was their undoing. Simply put: they were on the wrong side of the argument and now it is too late for Antonia to apologize for her errors.

Farewell Antonia. Thou hast returned to the dust from whence thou camest. May God have mercy on you enternal soul, for I shall have none for your legacy here on Earth.

 
At 5/12/2006 05:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd just like to comment regarding the comment left by Andrew Morrow. I think it is in extremely poor taste to make such remarks in response to the blog post here. It's about an elderly woman's *death* - and gives us a glimpse of Mrs. Morgan's personality and interests in life. Hardly cause for such commentary... such *rude* commentary.

You stated "Simply put: they were on the wrong side of the argument" in one part of your response, Mr. Morrow. That is your opinion; opinions are easy to come by. It hardly seems right for you to be so judgmental without having walked in their shoes.

Antonia Morgan was an amazing woman, full of both grace and deep love. She was woman of character and strength who put her granddaughter's needs first, just as Elizabeth put her daughter's needs first. You may not understand it - you may disagree with it - but clearly, they were not willing to ignore the child's plight because they were the ones responsible for her safety. They accepted that responsibility rather than shirking it. It would be *easy* to give in to the system and allow a child to be potentially placed in harm's way - but for some people, the awareness that your actions could cause permenant damage to your child is too much. Some people MUST act because their children have been brutalized or victimized in some way, who *knows* what sorts of ways (particularly considering how horribly common pedophilia seems to be, simply judging by the recent Dateline series 'To Catch a Predator' - they seem to be able to unearth scads of potential molesters, and most don't look the slightest bit threatening. Many are even in the helping professions, or in some profession deemed 'respected' and 'safe' - but back when the Morgan case was happening, I doubt anyone would have imagined how common pedophiles truly are). When a parent is confronted with the information that their child has been victimized by the other parent - and the child knows that this will continue - what on earth should a parent do if a court says "hand the kid over anyway"?

What Antonia Morgan did was what she *had* to do in order to do the right thing for Ellen. Yes, it was against the court; that's common knowledge. But the problem does not rest with Antonia Morgan or with Elizabeth Morgan; the problem has to do with the fact that parental rights tend to be more important than the rights of children/victims.

Would a rape victim be forced by a court to have weekly supervised visits with their dark-alley-rapist, and after a few supervised visits, give the rapist the right to have the victim spend every other weekend and two weeks during the summer with them? Of course not. Would anyone expect a rape victim to even sit down for a cup of coffee with her rapist? Of course not. But for some reason, when a parent sexually molests a child, that gets ignored - because it's so important to protect the rights of the parent, and so important to protect the relationship between parent/perpetrator and child/victim. The fact that the child may even be traumatized by just being in the *presence* of the perpetrator doesn't seem to make a difference to the courts sometimes; plus, forcing a child to maintain a relationship with the perpetrator sends the unspoken message, "What happened isn't very serious, your memories/fears/possible revictimization and other concerns aren't a big deal... just smile and be good." Is this in the best interest of ANY child?

Antonia Morgan stepped up to the plate and helped her grandchild to live a life of safety after trauma. She was presented with a serious situation, and out of love for Ellen and also for Elizabeth, she took action. Antonia could have turned away from the situation and refused to help, but apparently after giving it a great deal of thought, she determined that helping was the right thing to do. Of course, to many people, it wasn't a matter of choosing, but a matter where there *wasn't* another choice.

Antonia Morgan will be remembered as being a vibrant, deeply thoughtful, intelligent, kind and helpful lady who touched many lives.

 
At 5/14/2006 11:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not talking about the Antonia of a few months ago. David makes it abundantly clear that she was a fascinating, lovely person. I am talking about the year 2106, when all of us are gone. It may be a peculiar perspective, but I assert that in matters of legacy, it is a rational perspective, despite its coldness.

You have to look ahead in these matters. 100 years from now, Antonia Morgan will still be in the History books. I have already entered her passing into this ledger, so that she can remain with her notable contemporaries:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_in_April_2006#3_28

but much more importantly, she is part of this tiny component of the Constitution of our United States:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_of_attainder

While not currently visible, I added this information to this version:

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bill_of_attainder&oldid=43599742

Quote:

"Up until 2002, only five acts of Congress had ever been overturned on bill of attainder grounds:"

* Ex Parte Garland, 4 Wallace 333 (1866) - Requirement for admission to practice law in the federal courts of an oath that a lawyer had not taken part in the rebellion was invalid as a bill of attainder.
* Cummings v. Missouri, 4 Wallace 277 (1866).
* U.S. v. Brown, 381 U.S. 437 (1965). [1] [2]
* Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S.425 (1977). [3] [4]
* Selective Service Administration v. Minnesota PIRG, 468 U.S. 841 (1984). [5] [6]

And the Elizabeth Morgan Act was number 6. Ever. As long as the government of the United States stands, the number 6 will be the datum point (unless I am misaken and it is 5 or 7; someone more careful than I can do that work). An obscure point for the moment, to be sure, but some feel that these "one-off" laws may proliferate in our time and that additional such reversals will become more frequent after over 200 years of near-dormancy on this tiny, obscure little clause of the document by which we build our orderly socieity:

http://home.earthlink.net/~amorrow/Reynolds%20Final.pdf

Back then, the abuse of kings was fresh in minds of the founding fathers. And they ask us to remember to benefit from their insights.

I hope I am wrong on the matter of such laws proliferating and that our Democracy will refrain from passing laws for small, targeted groups of people will the intent of punishing them. If you found yourself to be the subject of such a law, then you too might still be able to taste second class citizenship in our time and in our country.

Anotonia was part of number 6. She did known it at the time. She could have at least said "I am sorry" after returning to our country in 1998. Or anytime thereafter, but despite her ample opportunity and the accumulating reasons to do so, she did not do so. The unblinking eye of History has so noted this fact. Forever.

How can anyone be reduced down to a number? Oh, wait a hundred years and find out. Or look back a hundred years or more. Most of us will not even get that much. I do not have to do anything: History is simply like that.

 
At 5/15/2006 12:25:00 AM, Anonymous Andrew Morrow said...

I fail to make clear that that paper by Jacob Reynolds, J.D., was published in the Florida St. Thomas University Law Reivew's Fall 2005 issue.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Thomas_University_%28Florida%29

just in case any of you or your succesors want to find it today or 100 years from now.

 
At 5/15/2006 01:03:00 AM, Anonymous Andrew Morrow said...

From the mouths of babes:

Unless I am mistaken, this was composed by Herbert Slobodow, aged 11,this past Tax day, 15 April 2006, now hidden in the history log:

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Elizabeth_Morgan&oldid=48528917

Quote:

"from a witness(omy god hi wikindipedia i am Herbert Slobodow, son of Arlen slobodow and Elsa newman and shoot my dad came up here, i know all about this trial cause i witnessed it, i was in it......... first off i would like to say that in this case, my mom was obviosly guilty, ive lived wit her, she somtimes would jump out of the freakin car while my dad was driving if she wanted him to driv efaster, hed have to pull over when mom did this, but this was before thier divorce. in the divorce i would go to diferent houses, my moms and dads, one night at dads , i wake up after hearing a load bang. i hear argue ment in dads room, i hear gimmi the phone, in my dads voice, and fuck you , in another, i run to my dads room and see my dad fighting with my moms friend, blood on my dads leg and a phone in my moms friends hand. dad tells me to get the phone in the kichen, my moms friend yells a t me to go back to bed, i ignore her and listen to dad, i go to the kitchen and find a phone i call 911, and suddenly i see some one running past mye and out the base ment. dad gets the phone from me and talks to the cops,thats the story.)"

Do you see how unguarded and sincere this child is? Hard to believe it is an elaborate forgery. The IP address 71.251.83.134 is documented by Verizon as being in Reston, Virginia. We will never know for sure, at least, for the moment.

But what if it is Herbie? What if we are just marching right on into his mind and extracting such information as we see fit? What then? It adds depth to our insight, as if we were close to that family. Not admissable in a court of law, but each person is free to make up their own minds on the matter and draw what additional conclusions, public or private, as they see fit, thanks to the free and orderly society that our predecessors created and that we are charged to preserve for ourselves and our successors. A rather awesome task, if you consider the matter carefully.

Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome your feedback as there are still a few unresolved issues and as intellegient creatures, our minds cry out for answers on this long days journey into night.

 
At 5/15/2006 01:09:00 AM, Anonymous Andrew Morrow said...

Where are my manners? How could I forget? Although it is too late for back East, at least it is not too late for me in my time zone here in California. Happy Mother's Day!

 
At 5/15/2006 07:46:00 PM, Anonymous Andrew Morrow said...

As long as we are going to get into TV shows, I recently talked with Arlen Slobodow and he mentioned how he watched with dismay the October 2005 airing of the PBS TV show "Breaking the Silence". He mentioned with dismay how one-sided it was. He mentioned this deseased physician

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Gardner

and his Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) theories, which, it seemed, were mentioned in this show. The backlash was strong and PBS to plans to produce a more balanced show in reponse:

http://www.pbs.org/aboutpbs/news/20051221_breakingthesilence.html

I am divored from a pediatrician who used to work for the Santa Clara County Sexual Assault Response Team(SART) in San Jose

http://www.sjpd.org/victsassistance/sart.cfm

so I have a vague clue of how these decisions are made.

I had a brief conversation with

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_B._Dixon_Jr.

He did little of the talking, but it was worth it. He is not a sissy. These people are the good guys. They are the ones in our stable, safe society that you go to and that you trust. They are the ones you ask for answers from. They are not perfect, but they know what they are doing and you must trust them. Where do you get your driver's license from? Who do you pay your taxes to? What is your citizenship? Answer these questions and THEN go ask yourselves: where you go for answers on difficult questions like child abuse?

I have note that the Irish Constitution declares the Family to the be the basic unit of soceity:

http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/attached_files/html%20files/Constitution%20of%20Ireland%20(Eng).htm

but we are not in Ireland, are we? We are not back where Antonia was born. No. We are in the United States of America. When issues as serious as credible suspicions of child abuse arise, you do not go off and ask yourself or your God. You do not go off an ask your friend or relative. You go to your local police and the authority structure of our society, and you ask them to help figure it out. Why would do that? Because they are the good guys. If you do not think that is the case in the part of the USA where you live, then find a legal way to fix the problem or move to some other part of it or out of it entirely.

They days of the Wild West and vigilantes and lynch mobs are over. And they are not coming back becaus we recognize the benefits of maintaining a safe, stable and lawful society where it is the individual and not the family that our society is built upon. Even in Ireland, it is the individual that is held accountable.

There are some scientific tools that law enforcement has now that it did not have, or the art was not as highly developed, back in the 1980's when Antonia made her decision to take matters into her own hands. But I still assert that she came down on the wrong side of the argument. Really, New Zealand is a lovely and beautiful country and was supportive of her concerns, especially once she had establish a status quo with her own personal flair. When she returned to the USA, I am sure she expressed gratitude to power players like Tom Davis. But even at that late date, there were not statements of lessons learned and no promises of restraint and conformance. She was not a loud person, but Antonia could have done more to make up for her prior display of unlawfulness. And to apologize for that same unlawfulness in a sincere and believable manner. It is not an absolute requirement, but let me tell you: it helps when you consider the legacy that you leave.

 
At 5/15/2006 10:28:00 PM, Anonymous Andrew Morrow said...

Just for the convenience of anyone else reading this thread, the Washington Post has an objective obituary that is likely to be an important part of Antonia's legacy:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/20/AR2006042002023.html?referrer=delicious

As its implementation fades into the Post's archives, perhaps behind some password, registration or subscription, then perhaps a more stable Internet location to ensure that access to important and well-written document will be found to ensure free and universal access to it for the forseeable future and beyond.

In this Internet age, more, and hopefully well-organized information is good. It allows us to learn from both the fine examples and the mistakes of our immediate forbears.

 
At 5/16/2006 04:38:00 AM, Anonymous Andrew Morrow said...

Here is a more stable source for the Reynolds paper:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Image:Reynolds_Final.pdf

 
At 5/17/2006 12:43:00 AM, Anonymous Andrew Morrow said...

This web page expresses in a very small and beautiful way the "obey all laws" concept I mentioned before. It is not a long page; just go read it.

Custody Preparation for Moms
Documenting Your Custody Case

http://www.custodyprepformoms.org/dycc.htm

 
At 5/17/2006 12:46:00 AM, Anonymous Andrew Morrow said...

This web page expresses in a small and beautiful way the "obey all laws" concept I have been implying. Just go read it; it is not very long.

Custody Preparation for Moms
Documenting Your Custody Case
http://www.custodyprepformoms.org/dycc.htm

 
At 8/03/2006 02:25:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Morrow has been permanently banned from Wikipedia for making threats against other users. He has also been banned from anti-Wikipedia site Wikipedia Review, and is used as an example of how not to behave.

 
At 8/07/2006 07:31:00 PM, Blogger David L Alexander said...

Dear Readers:

It was only after reading the announcement of the banning from Wikipedia, that I gave this line of commentary the attention it deserved.

I wish to extend my deepest apology to the family and loved ones of the late Antonia Morgan, for letting this discourse go on as long as it did. The opinions that have appeared above, particularly those of one Andrew Morrow, do not reflect my own. Indeed, I considered it a privilege to be in the presence of this woman, if only for her final eventide on earth.

Whatever one may think of her actions in the past, they were an answer to a Higher Law. Any and all attempts to render verdict here on Earth would be moot, as the case now stands before the Final Judge.

May that Judge extend His Divine Mercy upon her, and may her soul finally be left alone here and now -- to rest in peace.

 

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