WORDS WE NEED TO SAY ABOUT MADRID
by Robert Gelfand
American Reporter Correspondent
San Pedro, Calif
LOS ANGELES, March 14, 2004 -- It's a little over three days since the March 11 Madrid attack, the latest episode of mass murder that has killed 200 people and injured 1400 more. Newspaper stories have been full of the death toll, the grizzly aftermath, and the increasing concern that Al-Qaeda was behind the attack.
It was therefore of interest to see what sort of deeper analysis of the attack was to be found in the editorial sections of Sunday newspapers. Would there be sympathy and calls for renewed fortitude in the war on terrorism perhaps, or even the tiniest hint of gloating that Europe has now perhaps been brought forcibly into that war? Or would there be some learned review of the history of Arab influence and conquest in Spain?
Here is what the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times had today: The lead essay on the front page is headlined "Family Matters" and is an attack on the concept of gay marriage. A second story on the same page discusses the internal politics of gay marriage in the city of San Francisco. The far right column on the same page is a discussion of how the Arab world has reacted to the American conquest and occupation of Iraq.
Page two contains a defense of single-sex classrooms and the closest thing to an editorial column so far, an op ed piece advising the Mayor to deal with his influence peddling scandal by replacing various city commissioners forthwith.
In later pages we get somebody's opinion of proposed rate hikes by the water company and a piece on the inadvisability of amending the Constitution to prohibit gay marriage.
Finally, we come to the two page spread that comprises the traditional editorial pages. The official editorials, three in number, go after problems in workers compensation, the danger of nuclear proliferation in North Korea, and finally a criticism of allowing physicians the right to break the speed limit in emergencies.
The facing page has two opinion pieces attacking the desirability of English-only laws, a law professor's remarks on whether or not nonparty advocacy groups should be allowed to collect money to run political ads on tv and (my favorite) a discussion by an Oxford University mathematician on the beauty of the underlying structures of mathematics.
That was the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times. Not one word of analysis, comparison, or even righteous anger about the Madrid slaughter was forthcoming, no vows of solidarity in our mutual sorrow, not even a little hint of gloating. Just nothing at all about the biggest story of the year for Europe. Not that gay marriage isn't a formidable topic in an election year, but still, you have to be alive to get married.
For the sake of comparison, we have the Daily Breeze, a local newspaper that covers a smaller region along the coast. The Breeze has a more traditional two-page editorial section for the Sunday paper. It's lead editorial supports using the new electronic touch screen systems for elections, hardly a world shaking issue, but to its credit, if only beneath the fold, the Breeze editorializes, "We who lived through Sept. 11, 2001, extend our sympathy and solidarity to the people of Spain."
In its relatively short piece, the Daily Breeze analyzes the main questions tersely but more or less completely. "Who? Why? to answer one is to answer the other." Was it Basque separatists or Islamic terrorists? Only time and investigation will tell.
The Breeze concludes, "The Spanish people will show the same determination Americans showed after Sept. 11. To have emerged from the terrible Spanish Civil War into a pillar of democracy is not to give into a handful of madmen, whether they call themselves separatists or Islamists."
Perhaps these words are obvious, but sometimes the obvious sentiments need to be said, or why else have funerals and inaugurations? We ought to be extending our sympathy and emotional support to the latest victims of terrorism. One newspaper dropped the ball, while the vastly smaller, less well known Daily Breeze acquitted itself admirably.