Wednesday , January 17, 2018 - 5:00 AM7 comments
“In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”
— U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, 1971
I freely admit, the end of last week had me down. The president had called for new limits on press freedoms, had used a vulgar, racist term in the White House, after which various lawmakers lied in attempts to cover it up, and I was, as I so often have been these past 18 months, despairing of our nation’s health and future.
Then came Monday. Oh, glorious Monday.
The day began with members of the Porter family heading off to Ogden’s Marshall White Center to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. Some of us ate breakfast. We visited with friends we haven’t seen in too many years. All of us listened to the speakers and their stirring, informative words.
And my 2-year-old grandson used his “I have a dream” poster as a ninja sword to swat anyone standing too close.
A few of us wore the T-shirts my wife gave us for Christmas. The words on the shirts were: “Science is Real. Black Lives Matter. No Human is Illegal. Love is Love. Women’s Rights Are Human Rights. Kindness is Everything.”
And we carried signs: “We Are All Created Equal,” “Jesus Loves Everyone” and the sign my 5-year-old grandson dictated, “Tell Donald Trump to Be Nice.”
I’m proud to note my 89-year-old retired police officer father, a lifelong Republican, joined us for the outing. He was in a wheelchair with an Old Glory-colored lap blanket. He chanted the slogans as we marched north along Grant Avenue and applauded speakers at the Ogden Amphitheater. His physical stamina may be waning, but his mind is as sharp as ever; he pronounced the experience “marvelous” and “inspiring.”
The morning couldn’t have been better, and the afternoon topped off the celebration. That’s because we continued our day of symbolically rebuking President Very Stable Genius with a trip to the movie theater to watch Steven Spielberg’s “The Post.” It was an entertaining retelling of The Washington Post’s quest to publish the Pentagon Papers. (And emotionally affecting, for old men like me who spent a quarter century as journalists.)
Yes, The Washington Post was late to the game of publishing the Pentagon Papers, since The New York Times had possession of them months before and were publishing excerpts for days before The WaPo joined the fray. But the story behind the newspaper’s pursuit of the classified documents is rich, played out against publisher Katharine Graham’s emergence as a businesswoman finally exerting her judgment and authority amid a male-dominated board of directors and newsroom.
Her decision to publish the documents – which revealed no U.S. president during our nation’s entire involvement in Vietnam ever believed we could win the war – plays out against the Nixon administration’s legal battle over the Pentagon Papers. It was a tense time for U.S. journalism, and the future of the news media was at stake.
It’s a fine film – somewhat less than “Spotlight” and “All the President’s Men,” but still a love letter to, and bold statement in support of, actual journalism, the kind we see less and less nowadays.
By the end of Monday, as I sat down to write these words, I was taking a longer view. I had been reminded of something: Our nation is resilient. Liars and frauds are eventually put back on the shelf or, perhaps, behind bars. Sometimes it takes a while, but truth, facts and justice will prevail.
As long as there are real journalists doing that difficult, often thankless work, the people will be victorious. As long as there are social activists whose goals are equality, love and fairness for all, the people will be victorious.
You can email Don Porter at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @DonPondorter.
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