To the editor(s),

In the last two issues we’ve seen the Reader at its best and its worst, on the same topic: Iraq.

The worst, as I’m sure many others are letting you know, was Neal Pollack’s February 28 whine about the amount and caliber of punditry and poetry being published about the issue [“Everybody Shut Up!”]. To call this abuse of newsprint “childish” is an insult to children; my ten-year-old and his classmates have had more interesting and enlightening chats about Iraq over juice boxes at our dining-room table. Here’s a tip: if artists and journalists opining about an issue is just too much for Pollack to bear, he could move someplace where nobody worries about luxuries like “freedom of expression.”

I’m sure one or two possible destinations will come to mind if he puts a couple nanoseconds’ thought into it, which would be more than he put into that essay.

But maybe that was just a bad editors’ week, because this week’s [March 7] cover story does you proud. Newspapers should, as Michael Miner reminds us so well, challenge our assumptions–shake, rattle, and roll our groupthink.

I think it’s safe to say that “War: What It’s Good For” is doing that for many as I type this.

I know many regular Reader readers, many are good friends of mine, and I’ll bet my ACLU membership that a poll would put at least 80 percent into the “hell no” camp regarding war with Hussein.

You just outraged half of them, and surprised most of the rest. Blind fury is right now being poured into more angry letters than you’ll have room to print (though I hope you’ll print plenty of them; perhaps you could make room by claiming the space that Pollack would otherwise be wasting?).

One need not favor an attack on Iraq (and I do not) in order to oppose the reduction of world-changing questions to cartoon or talk-radio simplicity. Knowledge will indeed set us free, but only if we are unafraid of unwelcome knowledge. Bravo, and please do it again about something else–I look forward to composing my own next angry missive, as I trust you look forward to reading it.

Paul Botts

Oak Park