Saturday, April 2, 2005

One Voice Scribbling in the Wilderness

Growing up in the 6os & 70s, my favorite newspaper columnist was the venerable Mike Royko of the now-defunct Chicago Daily News, then the Chicago Sun-Times and, finally, the Chicago Tribune. As stated in the Wikipedia, Royko "could use biting sarcasm, [but] he never spoke down to his readers, always remembering that he was one of them."

After his death in 1997, I was at a loss. I sometimes enjoyed reading Donald Kaul, but his sarcasim didn't have the Royko bite. I also enjoyed reading the zany prose of Dave Barry -- whose columns sort of resemble a written form of Monty Python -- but his work lacks the penetrating ethos of Royko.

Over the past year, however, I've found one newspaper columnist* who generally inspires me. Unlike the great Royko, Leonard Pitts, Jr. is not a satirist; he's more a social commentator. Yet, in a world seemingly in the stranglehold of the Religious Right and conservative pundits, his words are like a voice crying in the wilderness.

If you haven't had the opportunity to read any of Pitts' inspiring columns, here are a few snippets from recently published commentaries.

April 1, 2005 -- on the death of Terri Schiavo
And maybe, if you were the praying type, you said, Hey, God, how about a little help here? When should we stop waiting on the miracle? When is it OK to give up hope?

But God, as far as is known, kept His own counsel. Maybe He felt He'd said what He had to say 15 years ago.

Terri Schiavo's death, hard as it was, feels like mercy. For her and for us. Once again, we can avoid confronting our irresolute feelings and fears.

There is, however, wisdom here, for those to care to seek it. Roughly distilled, it goes like this: To face reality is not to betray faith.

God answers every prayer, a preacher once said.

Sometimes, the answer is no.
March 30, 2005 -- re the shootings at Red Lake, MN
The people behind, for instance, want you to know they don't consider themselves white supremacists. They are open to anyone -- black, Asian, Indian -- who believes blacks, Asians and Indians should confine themselves to their own countries -- and that Jews are "vicious," "parasitic" "liars" and "hypocrites."

I won't subject you to a treatise on why these people are abhorrent. If you don't already know, you need more help than we can give you in a few inches of newsprint. I only note the sad incongruity of an American Indian boy asking to join their ranks.

Perhaps you concluded that this spoke to the self-hatred sometimes found in minority communities. But Weise's complaint wasn't that he hated Indians, but that too many of them were not Indian enough, that their culture was diluted by exposure to others. He was especially offended by those Native youth who enjoy hip-hop. He saw them as more black than Native.
March 4, 2005 -- re US Supreme Court prohibition on executing youth younger than 18
Less simply put, a civilized nation ought not be in the business of executing its children. Even if I considered state-sanctioned killing a proper and just response to the depravity of some criminal acts, I would still draw the line at imposing that penalty on young people.

Adolescents are, generally, less mature than their elders, less responsible, less capable of making reasoned decisions and more prone to committing foolish and impulsive acts. It's a truth we have long recognized in law and custom. That's why we protect young people from their own juvenility. It's why we say they are too young to sign contracts, too young to drink, too young to vote, too young to see a naughty movie without parental approval.

How, then, could they have been old enough to be executed?
* I just want to note that I'm not including magazine columnists. In that genre, there are many I read frequently like Molly Ivins, Howard Zinn, Matthew Rothschild, Will Durst (to name only a few).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.