“The Post”

Tonight I enjoyed watching “The Post,” a thoroughly riveting movie about the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 by the now deceased Katherine Graham, then publisher of The Washington Post, and Ben Bradlee, its editor.

In 1971, I was a high school senior in a rural town in Indiana and the rice paddies of Vietnam were very remote to my thinking at the time.  I was more stressed about affording college than I was about a war that made little dent in the populace among which I lived.

My cognizance would shift a bit when I briefly fell for a Vietnam vet with whom I rode back and forth to the IU-Purdue campus in Fort Wayne. But the war was not something he cared to discuss, and I had stars in my eyes and a willingness to hear whatever he wished on whatever subject he cared to talk about.

When I ended up joining the Navy for the G.I. Bill so I could afford college, Vietnam was still not a part of my every day reality. For the most part I served as admin support at the school which comprised the first training phase for nuclear reactor operators, both officer and enlisted. Most of these men were submariners, and many had not yet seen duty of any sort.

Once again I had stars in my eyes for someone, and my romantic soul defined my days far more than world events or even military life.  The latter was a means to an end to me, although I am proud to have served my country while also securing my college future.

It was that college life that took me into journalism and finally into the larger world of politics and issues ranging from crop yield to scholastic achievement among students  to the place of nuclear power as an energy source.

There are moments I regret ever leaving that world for a better paying P.R. job.  But I was a single mother with a child to support.  And I didn’t believe in my talents enough to think I could make it to the New York Times.

So my gaze turned back more toward the personal in life and the professional of the companies for which I worked. The larger discourse was lost to me again.

Then came Donald Trump. If he can be credited with anything, it is for snapping those of us lulled into every day stupor out of it and into the reality of how completely ill-equipped this man was (is) to lead this country for every possible reason.

He is a rubber stamp for the GOP agenda.  Nothing more.  Nothing less. It is the only reason he is tolerated by the Paul Ryans and Mitch McConnells of the world.

“The Post” is a reminder that the freedom of the press is a powerful tool to hold Trump accountable in his Presidency.  That is why -except for the state endorsed Fox News- he fights so relentlessly against the press. He of all people knows the power of the media to blow down his house of cards and expose it for the hollowness it is.

So keep it up, both professional and citizen journalists! And remember these words from Associate Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black quoted in the movie on the view held by the Founding Fathers: “The Press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”

Regular Joes, Alternative Realities

With my penchant for winding out the night with a TCM movie, last night I picked one of this month’s “star” William Holden.

I had never seen “Stalag 17” before.  Although it preceded it, it reminded me very much of “The Great Escape,” which I have seen many, many times just for the moment where Steve McQueen jumps those fences.

The main characters of “Stalag 17” are not universally as “heroic” as those in “The Great Escape.” Most especially Holden’s.

He is the barracks’ “scrounger,” a la James Garner’s character “Hensley.” Both Holden and Garner infuse their characters with roguish charm.

But Holden’s J.J. Sefton is scrounging out of pure self-interest.  This leads his bunk mates to believe he is collaborating with camp guards when a planned escape goes awry and two sergeants are killed by Nazi machine gunners who seem to know their escape route and are conveniently placed to mow them down in the mud.

The men in the barracks badly beat Holden believing him to be the bad guy his opportunistic character makes him seem. Therein begins a chess game by Holden to determine who the real collaborator may be.

I saw James Garner up close once at a pro-am golf match in Pebble Beach back in the 80s.  As is often the case, some movie stars in person do not look the same as on TV or a movie screen. Of course, Garner was much older by then and had suffered a heart attack or two. (Clint Eastwood, btw, looked just like – Clint Eastwood.)

In one of my times living in California, I once had a downstairs neighbor named Rosie who had been a screen production assistant in Hollywood.  She used to play poker with Garner and said he was a “regular Joe.”

In this day and age where everyone scrambles to find fame on You-Tube, it’s nice to know some real Hollywood stars weren’t as striving about their own fame. That they were regular Joes.

And that their “alternative realities” were kept on the silver screen, not in the Oval Office.

 

Judgment: Close at Hand?

At a class this evening, we were studying the Catholic concept of the “last four things”: death, judgment, heaven and hell. Like being born, these are the inescapable aspects of our end that we all share in common.

As such topics are wont to do, the talk turned to whether or not we are living in end times.  My friend Anna is hoping so, because she wants to see the second coming of Christ and the establishment  of a “new heaven and earth,” the resurrection of the dead and glorification of the bodies of the elect.

I fear we could cause our own end. I do not recall ever in my life being truly worried about world conflagration the way I am today. It is no secret from my previous blogs that I find Trump a deeply flawed human being and dangerous as our President. Not just to our Constitutional protections, but to our very lives.

What President that cares about the fate of the citizenry would – at a Missouri tax rally – make mock of North Korea’s leader only a day after that dangerous country launches a rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that can now reach the farthest shores of our nation?

And what Congress let’s him tweet – without censure – vile, inflammatory, bigoted  and unverified videos from a fascist source, incurring the wrath of our closest ally?

Our class discussion also talked about the Catholic belief that we all face two types of judgment, one “particular” (personal) for our own actions and another “general” for how we behaved in our group affiliations.

If we could by our own human errancy bring about our end, I would not want to be a member of the GOP House or Senate, or one of its leaders, nor a member of Trump’s Cabinet. Because all have the power to stop the insanity that takes place daily on a twitter feed originating in the Oval Office. And all, because of vested interests, refuse to act.

They will be judged – by history or by Christ.  One way or another, it is an end they will not escape.

If I Could Be Atticus Finch

There are definitely days I wish I had followed my friend Mary into law. Today is one of them.

I remember wanting to be a lawyer almost as vividly as wanting to be a writer. I lived for the legal dramas my mother let me stay up late watching with her: « Perry Mason; » « The Bold Ones », « The Defenders. ». I am quite sure I never missed an episode of « L.A. Law. » And yes, the old « Law and Order » franchise.

But if I had have gone to Berkeley as Mary did, the outcome may have been different. Though she is a dear friend and « Aunt » to my son, she enjoyed being the conservative voice on Law Review. My heart probably would have bled from the corporate centrism that I embraced for so long into a fiery defender of press freedoms and human rights. At least I hope it would have.

Especially today, after reading the « NY Times » story on Iraqi citizen Basim Razzo, who’s house-along with his brother’s- were wrongly targeted by a U.S. military air strike. Especially learning that losing his home, his wife, daughter, brother and nephew in a wrongful drone strike due to bad intelligence, the military offered him $15,000 in « condolence » funding. Is that the price we put on human lives when our military makes mistakes?

According to this news report, we are barely willing to ADMIT our mistakes, with civilian death rates in our pursuit of ISIS allegedly 33 times higher than we are willing to own -1 in 5 killed in the last few years have been civilians.

Ironic they also published a piece about how the military pushed a disinformation campaign on the public before the Vietnam Tet offensive to convince folks at home the North Vietnamese were losing steam.  Or perhaps not so coincidental.

I want to be a lawyer to fight Trump from trying to force the sale of his arch nemesis CNN in order to manipulate the Time Warner-AT&T merger. He is abusing the office of his presidency to take revenge on a news organization and Jeff Sessions is letting him use the DOJ to do it because – well – it might make up for him recusing himself on all matters Russia as relates to the Trump campaign. News flash to Jeff Sessions – no matter how much you grovel, Trump never forgives. One day, he will oust you. Talk to Chris Christie about Trump’s loyalty.

I want to defend « net neutrality. » When the « Information Highway » came into existence, it was supposed to be a freeway anyone could drive to find knowledge and information. As it has become increasingly monetized by the companies doing business on it, taking away its last protections will become the equivalent of having to buy the Encyclopedia Brittanica-most houses won’t  afford it. And the organizations willing to plow the most money into it will be prioritized as the voices heard. Freedom of information will be a forgotten phrase. The chance for demagoguery to push further into our civic discourse will be grow exponentially.  The term « free speech » will become an oxymoron.

I want to be a lawyer to defend every woman who has a #MeToo story to tell. They all deserve one and there is only so much of  Gloria Allred to go a round.

I want to be a lawyer to speed up the disability hearing process so 18,000 more people don’t die before their claims are thoroughly adjudicated over the next two years.

« If wishes were horses, beggars could ride. » An old, old adage. I am not a lawyer. All I can do is blog and hope some lawyer somewhere reads this and takes on a just cause.  Even if they are tilting at windmills. We need more Atticus Finches in this world. Sadly, that noble lawyer was not real. But the threats to our ability to speak freely and be treated justly are.