I was seventeen when the Pentagon Papers were released. I had just graduated high school. A year earlier the massacre at Kent State happened. The nightly news reported the numbers of casualties and losses in Vietnam. I read the New York Times daily, and asked a lot of questions. Walter Cronkite was in our living room every night delivering somber news about a place I could find on a map but was on the other side of my globe. I was headed to college in the fall and didn’t know anyone who was drafted. It was the time of the draft lottery. People I knew were making arrangements to go to Canada or to get a student deferment or were going to be conscientious objectors. I was sheltered by my middle class, educated standing in the world of New York City. I didn’t have a clue.
I am not a big believer in coincidence. I don’t think it was a coincidence this past weekend, that my FHB and I should have gone to see a movie in Plymouth Massachusetts. “The Post”, is about what became known as the Pentagon Papers and their release by the New York Times and Washington Post in 1971. Plymouth is home to the famous but underwhelming “Plymouth Rock” which is supposedly where the Pilgrims landed after leaving England because of religious persecution. All of New England has ties to the Founding Fathers and the wish for independence almost 400 years ago.
Living through those times (not Plymouth Rock or the Tea Party) did not make me a student or true witness of history. The film brought those times to light and evoked feelings that I was witnessing the history of my growing up years almost fifty years later. I knew the music. I recognized the faces of the politicians. I knew the names of the reporters. I read the papers, every day, but I didn’t know how to understand how it effected my life. Was I naive? Absolutely. I saw protests and felt the passion of my peers and others who were angry and hated the war. There was only one war…the wrong war, a friend called it. The film, despite the Hollywood creation, left its mark. It was good writing, great acting and a sense of clarity that showed that we had bad guys right in our backyard. We didn’t need to go around the world to figure that out. I remember signs that said “Don’t Trust the Government”. Now I get it, just when it seems like it’s coming around again. The film affirmed the role of emerging awareness by women to rise up and push back and take their places at the helm. Katherine Graham, and Meryl Streep’s performance in that role was powerful. The character showed development of her moral conscience and the actress delivered it.
I enjoy a good drama until it seems as though life mirrors art daily. I can’t read the paper without anxiety. I don’t read the NY Times as much but check in on line. The media bombards us with information that conflicts and contradicts with no immediate resolution to anything. Recently, I pulled up a clip on Youtube…. Remember Howard Beale?
It’s been 42 years…or has it?