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Andy Martin on the passing of Lester Ziffren

November 22, 2007

ANDY MARTIN
Executive Editor
ContrarianCommentary.com

“Factually Correct, Not
Politically Correct”

OBITUARY: LESTER ZIFFREN, ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS

CITIZEN OF THE WORLD

A SON OF ROCK ISLAND DIES, AND REMINDS US HOW ILLINOISANS HELPED PIONEER A NEW CENTURY—100 YEARS AGO

FEW REMEMBER THAT THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE AND CHICAGO DAILY NEWS PUBLISHED PARIS EDITIONS (YES, PARIS, FRANCE) IN THE 1920’S

(CHICAGO)(November 21, 2007) A son of Rock Island died in New York on November 12th. He reminds us just how bold and adventuresome Illinoisans were in pioneering and discovering the world in the Twentieth Century. Lester Ziffren left behind a legacy of escapades and occupations that is difficult to comprehend in today’s homogenized world. He was 101. His life spanned most of the twentieth Century.

Ziffren was born in Rock Island, Illinois and started writing for local newspapers in the Quad Cities.

He went on to report the Spanish Civil War, to work for United Press, which became UPI, and to survive as its oldest employee. Ziffren later represented the United States as a diplomat and commercial spokesman.

Today we can press a button, and bring up distant newspapers, histories, photos and sounds of strange lands. They are not so strange any more.

We forget that only a few decades ago the world was a much bigger place. An unknown world. Newswires traveled across the Atlantic and Pacific, but not much else did. Before World war II commercial airline service barely existed. You took a boat and you took your time. When you went somewhere, you were there.

At a time when young people are abandoning print media and newspapers are struggling to survive, it is difficult to believe that the Chicago Tribune published a legendary Paris (yes, France) edition. The late Chicago Daily News also had a Paris edition. In the aftermath of World War I, intrepid Americans began to replicate the British experience and populate Paris, France as though it were Paris, Illinois.

Today we have become lazy. Because we are there on the tube, the closeness of phosphors on a screen may lead us to remoteness and complacency about the world.

Ziffren was in Madrid when the prelude to World War II, the Spanish Civil War, broke out. Communists, fascists, Nazis, adventurers all flocked to Spain. The brutality and carnage was unbelievable, and prompted Picasso to paint “Guernica,” the scene of a legendary slaughter. By then Ziffren had escaped From Spain, fearing for his life.

Hemmingway was also in Spain. But Ziffren scooped all of them at the outset. Today, if something is happening around the world, we can sit at our desks and watch events unfold on a web cam. The experience is not the same. We call it “real time.” But is it real?

The French writer/adventurer/philosopher Andre Malraux wrote of the “homme engagé,” the man of action in the middle of the action. http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,903235,00.html

A computer console is hardly a scene, or source, of action.

What drove Ziffren to Europe, to Hollywood, to South America and ultimately to New York? I wish I had met Mr. Ziffren. I would have liked the answer to that question and many more. Ziffren was truly an homme engagé.

In the meantime, Illinois can reflect on the adventurousness of its citizens a hundred years ago. And hope that we will continue to pioneer and explore new worlds. Here one earth and beyond. Mr. Ziffren will be watching.

[This column is based, in part, on material that originally appeared in the Washington Post.]
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Chicago-based Internet journalist, broadcaster and media critic Andy Martin is the Executive Editor and publisher of ContrarianCommentary.com. © Copyright by Andy Martin 2007. Martin covers regional, national and world events with forty years of experience. He is currently a candidate for U. S. Senator from Illinois. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law. Columns also posted at ContrarianCommentary.blogspot.com; contrariancommentary.wordpress.com. Comments? E-mail: AndyMart20@aol.com. Media contact: (866) 706-2639. Web sites: ContrarianCommentary.com.

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