A great journalist died last month.
His name was John Ross.
He was a beatnik and an activist before he became a journalist. One of the first Vietnam War resisters ever to be jailed, he fought in the great movements for social justice in the 1960s.
And then he picked up his pen.
He didn't write for fame or fortune. He wrote for beauty and truth.
And for the last 25 years, he dedicated himself to telling the beauty and truth of Mexico. He covered the Zapatistas before anyone else. He covered the corruption of Mexico's government, but also the courage of its people. He wrote occasionally for The Progressive, always in his vivid style, and I had the pleasure of interviewing him on radio a couple times.
I last spoke with John Ross about a year ago when he was visiting Madison. We talked about his latest book, a long valentine to Mexico called "El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City." He was disdainful that all anybody wanted to talk about was the drug war. There's so much more to Mexico than that, he said, though he understood that war better than anyone.
I remember him saying that he was ailing from liver cancer, but his spirits were up and his mind was sharp.
He had remained politically active in his last decade, going to Iraq as a human shield in 2003 and to Palestine, where he was beaten trying to help harvest olives for Palestinians.
For him, journalism and activism were intertwined.
"I'm going to keep marching until I drop," he once wrote.
Now he's dropped, and we keep marching, as we say, "John Ross, Presente."
There will be a celebration of John Ross's life this Saturday, Feb. 26, in San Francisco.
Here are the details:
3-5 p.m. - Words + music by family + friends
United Mission Presbyterian Church, 23rd St. and Capp
*5 p.m. - Jazz parade to Cafe La Boheme
24th St. and Mission
for reception and public remembrances
Catering provided by La Boheme / no-host bar
Bring stories, photos, artwork + poems for the remembrance
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Meet Three State Workers Who Would Get Screwed by Scott Walker."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter.