David Cross

April 4

David Cross (1964)

It was on this date, April 4, 1964, that American actor and comedian David Cross was born to Jewish parents in Atlanta, Georgia. Growing up in a politically liberal environment, Cross briefly attended Emerson College in Boston, but gave up education for stand-up comedy and, in 1992, began his professional TV career as a writer for “The Ben Stiller Show.” With “Stiller Show” colleague Bob Odenkirk, Cross co-created the HBO sketch comedy series “Mr. Show with Bob and David” in 1995. Beginning in Ocober 2005, Cross played fictional liberal radio talk show host "Russ Lieber" on Comedy Central's “Colbert Report.”

David Cross stand-up routines consist of material that often blends left-wing political commentary and low humor. Among his successful comedy CDs are Shut Up You Fucking Baby! and It's Not Funny. Cross also has a running feud with Larry the Cable Guy, beginning with an April 2005 Rolling Stone Interview, in which he criticized his fellow comic for his “gee-shucks, proud-to-be-a-redneck, I'm-just-a -straight-shooter-multimillionaire-in-cutoff-flannel-selling-ring-tones act.”

In a 9 March 1998 appearance on ABC's "Politically Incorrect" TV show, Cross said, “I was born Jewish, but I am an atheist. I don't believe in God.”

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Dorothea Dix

Dorothea Dix (1802)

It was also on this date, April 4, 1802, that social reformer Dorothea Lynde Dix was born in Hampden, Maine. Her father was an itinerant Methodist preacher and a vendor of religious tracts, but neither occupation prevented him from being an alcoholic, abusive to her emotionally depressed mother. As a result, Dix recalled, "I never knew childhood." She ran away at age 12.

Still, Joseph Dix had taught his daughter to read and write and Dorothea Dix developed a love of learning and a desire to teach that resulted, in the fall of 1816, in Worcester, Massachusetts, in a little school of twenty girls between the ages of six and eight – at a time when girls were not permitted to attend public school. She closed down the school three years later, when she was 18, and moved to Boston, where from 1822-1836 Dix ran two schools out of her grandmother’s house – one for rich girls and, believing in community service if not in the faith of her now-dead father, a free one for poor girls. But she developed what is now known as tuberculosis and, after her grandmother’s death, closed her school and left for England to recuperate.

Returning to Boston in 1841, well recovered, Dix embarked on the career for which she is known today. Visiting an East Cambridge jail, she discovered hardened criminals, feeble-minded children and the mentally ill all occupied the same quarters. This sent her on a quest to improve conditions for the insane in jails and almshouses across the US and Canada that lasted the next 20 years. She traveled also to England, Scotland, France, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and Germany.

Because of her efforts, during the American Civil War (1861-1865) Dix moved to Washington, DC, where he was made Superintendent of Union Army Nurses. After the War, she resumed her lobbying by letter more often than in person for the mentally ill. Her reformist tendencies were only tangentially inspired by her religious upbringing. As the Unitarian Universalist website puts it,

Although Dix's work was driven by deeply felt moral sensitivities, for a time she struggled to find an appropriate religious context. She attended her grandmother's Congregational church in Boston, but found there as little spiritual satisfaction as she had earlier in the Methodism of her father. Doubting the many "necessities of belief," she could not doubt the importance of salutary action to promote positive social and personal growth.

Dorothea Dix died at age 79 on 17 July 1887.

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance writer.
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