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Vive La Difference

March 01, 1992

While I was reading Boylan's review, the sentence "Just how much our revolution diluted class distinctions, for example, becomes clear when you consider that today, the difference between a commoner and a gentleman is often difficult to discern," reminded me of an amusing encounter I once had in Richmond, Va.

I was in a museum, gazing at a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, when a well-dressed matron strolled over. After a moment she asked, in a soft Southern drawl, "Can you believe what they're sayin' about Thomas Jefferson? They're sayin' he had a (black) mistress and even had children by her."

"Oh," I glibly replied, "the founding fathers probably weren't much different from folks today. For instance," I added, nodding at a portrait of Ben Franklin on another wall, "I've read Ben Franklin was quite a lady killer."

She opened her eyes wide in surprise. "But," she gasped, "Thomas Jefferson was a gentleman ."

Ben Franklin may have waited until he amassed enough wealth to proclaim himself a gentleman, but in the eyes of some there is a discernible difference, and money still can't buy class.

EMMAJEAN MILLER, LOS OSOS

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