Hamburger: Helper
The following letter was published in the "Mail" section of the May 17, 2004, issue of The New Yorker.

I was married to Philip Hamburger for twenty-three years, after which, as the late writer William Maxwell predicted at the time of our divorce, Phil became my best friend, as did his wonderful wife, Anna (Postscript, May 3rd). Phil's death, on April 23rd, so soon after Anna's, left a void that, at eighty-seven, I can't fill. Phil and I met in 1939 in the library of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he had been a student the previous year, and which I was attending at the time. We began a conversation that lasted sixty-five years.

In addition to two delightful and loving sons, Jay and Richard, we shared an abiding belief in the greatness of the system of government in the United States. We both believed that the balance of power among the executive, the Congress, and the judiciary was the sacred foundation that made our democracy work. It was a clumsy system, sometimes out of joint, but it always seemed to right itself. After the Bush Administration began its disastrous preƫmption policy, our conversations centered on the steady erosion of democracy in the United States. Each day brought new grief: the polarizing politics at the Supreme Court, the heartless legislation of the Republicans in Congress, and, above all, the misuse of the executive functions of the Presidency -- the destruction of individual rights; tax shields for the wealthy and a massive deficit that is out of control; secret agendas, distortions of truth, and outright lies; the smashing of international treaties and the contempt for longtime allies; and now a disastrous war in Iraq, with heartbreaking loss of life for all sides.

Anna's admirable way of expressing her indignation was to write a personal letter, almost every day when she felt pressed, to the President of the United States. Philip's way was to write with strength and beauty about the great diversity and marvellous qualities inherent in this country, and in its people. He cherished the right, as he often said, "to vote the bastards out." Beyond all his charm and wit -- he was the funniest person I ever knew -- Phil had an awesome regard for the grand nature of the democratic process that defines America. This was his religion.

Edith Iglauer
Garden Bay, B.C.