Tuesday, November 11, 2003

I Hear a Voice, Crying in the Wilderness

Jimmy Breslin has for years been one of the top newspaper columnists in the USA, if not the English speaking world. What makes Breslin great? Two things: firstly, instead of sitting on his keyster and mouthing off until he reaches eight hundred words and collects a fat cheque at the end of the working week, Breslin gets off his ass and goes out into the world. He talks to people, and gets their stories, which is what newspapermen are supposed to do but often do not.

The second thing that makes Breslin great is his anger. When he's pissed off, you know it. The rage is shot through his columns, and it's very real. Most so-called tell-it-to-straight columnists, like the hateful Richard Littlejohn of the Sun, are as sounding brass or clanging cymbals when it comes to their worked-up frothing at the mouth outrage. But Jimmy is permanently pissed off, and he's not afraid to speak his mind.

Right now Breslin has noted the shameful treatment by the US of its war dead in Iraq. Nearly all other dead from US foreign wars have been flown home and buried with full honours - Breslin is of the opinion that the body bags look a little too real on television for President Bush to feel comfortable about, and are therefore buried with a minimum of ceremony. So every week Breslin lists in his column who's been killed, where they were from, and how they died. Why they died is up to you.

One of the soldier's funerals was in Newark, near New York. Breslin went to it, and wrote this excoriating article on the dead man and why he died. Fantastic, fantastic writing.