EXCERPT: Thinker, Sailor, Author, Spy

Nance Painting 0

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt of a profile of Philly’s own Malcolm Nance, a Naval Intelligence vet turned national security analyst for MSNBC, that I wrote for the current issue of Philadelphia Magazine.

PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE: Back when Malcolm Nance was in high school and it all got to be too much — the intense academic workload he brought upon himself, the gnawing anxiety about the uncertainty of the future, the big-ass shoes he had to fill as a Nance —  he had a favorite place to go to chill, focus and get his head on straight: Independence Square. To him, it was hallowed ground, the cradle of democracy. He would sit on a bench in silence for hours, savoring the peace and quietude, and stare up at the statue of Commodore John Barry, aka The Father of the American Navy, pointing the way.

He would contemplate the idea of America: that all men were created equal — no matter your color or creed or religious beliefs, or lack thereof — and born free; that we all Malcom-Iraq-M92came from somewhere else and all men were innocent until proven guilty; that every man and woman had a voice that was heard at the ballot box when it came to choosing our leaders and the way forward; and all the men and women that made the ultimate sacrifice over the last two and a half centuries to give that idea a chance to grow in the light and protect it from all enemies foreign and domestic. That we, as a nation, hold these truths to be self-evident and inviolable.

As a grown-ass man, when it all gets to be too much — his wife’s stage 4 cancer, the persistent death threats against his family, the deeply troubling suspicion that in a moment of weakness a foreign enemy has seized power in this country under cover of the darkness and chaos they have sown — he still goes to Independence Square to recharge his batteries and get his head back on straight, to separate what matters from what doesn’t.

“The very fact that I was born and raised in Philadelphia, where I was taught how this nation was born down at Fifth and Chestnut makes me, and all Philadelphians, uniquely qualified to feel aggrieved at the present state the country is in,” says Nance. “The great struggle in America today is not between the Eagles and the Patriots but the struggle to keep safe the values, ideas and traditions established in the heart of this very city. Across the street in Washington Square, there is a statue of George Washington, father our country, guarding the graves of dead soldiers, both black and white, with the inscription ‘Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness.’ That was my career, I worked in darkness to protect that light.” MORE