Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Wisdom from Steve Lopez

Thoughts on the coming war from one of the few people left who has any common sense:

The biggest threat to our security in the new world isn't Saddam's potential to build a nuclear weapon in the next six or seven years. It's some fanatic slipping into this country in the next six or seven minutes, while we're all waving flags and singing hymns. If you were a terrorist who wanted to strike in the U.S., wouldn't you prefer that we were distracted in Iraq?

It's not a stretch to imagine an American future with dirty bombs blowing up our harbors. It's not beyond the pale to imagine suicide bombers at sporting events and nerve gas attacks in subway stations.

And yet there has been precious little discussion about whether an attack on Iraq lowers or raises those risks.

. . . .

If we're going to war to prevent a nuclear holocaust, shouldn't we at least all know how to pronounce it? It ain't nukular, George. Trust me on this.

Steve Lopez, in case you don’t know, is one of the best journalists in the USA. He’s shrewd, funny, and filled with moral outrage.

From 1985 on to the late 1990s, he was an award-winning columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. As a Bay Area native, he chronicled the shenanigans of Philadelphia politicians, citizens, and the Parking Authority with zeal, passion, and an outrageous sense of humor. His columns are collected in Land of Giants, which is worth buying, if only for the nostalgic look at Philadelphia in the days when City Council had a quorum in jail.

Then there are the stories about the second MOVE crisis — the one in which the city burned down an entire block of Osage Avenue, which led to the deaths of eleven people, including all but one of the children the city was claiming to protect. Steve Lopez, as I recall, had just started writing for the Inquirer a few days earlier. A hell of an introduction to the City of Brotherly Love.

Nevertheless, he developed an affection for the city and even its old-style corrupt ward heelers. This is apparent in his second novel, The Sunday Macaroni Club. He also wrote Third and Indiana, an impassioned novel about the destruction of young lives and old neighborhoods by streetcorner drug culture. Reading it broke my heart.

These days he writes for the LA Times. He’s a good journalist because he’s a stubborn, tough reporter who writes incisively. He’s a great one because after all these years he still cares.

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