Last Saturday night I was watching, for the tenth time, the DVD THE POST. And of course I was sitting there blowing my nose and wiping away my tears. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is the heroic story of The Washington Post newspaper editor Ben Bradley and publisher Kathryn Graham and their decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Now later the Post would be the paper that broke the story of Watergate and the crimes and corruption in the Nixon White House, but the Pentagon Papers came before that. The Pentagon Papers were released by Daniel Ellsberg (a whistle-blower) because he had seen first hand the war in Viet Nam and he had read the secret report that had been commissioned by Bob McNamara on the history of the Viet Nam war from 1947 to 1967. Ellsberg says in the movie that 10% of the war was to fight Communism and 20 % of the war was to help the people of Viet Nam so that meant 70% of the war was just so the U.S. could save face by not losing the war. Seventy per cent of the men dying in Viet Nam were dying for a president to save face and that covered Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. Not one of them would admit we were losing the conflict. The New York Times and the Washington Post defended the first freedom in the Bill of Rights which includes freedom of the press, “Congress shall make no law. . .abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” by taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The judges ruled 6 to 3 that the American people had the right to know. Justice Roberts said the newspapers exist for the right of the governed and not those who govern. It really was monumental.
Today we find the battle for freedom of the press continuing. Many of the big city newspapers are gone now, lost to news from the internet and a public that continues to read less and less. But freedom of the press is a liberty worth fighting for. Dictators go after the media when they take power and journalists in television and newspapers are the first to be attacked. The murder of journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi by the leaders of Saudi Arabia shows the long arm of tyranny. But it really has been good to see this basic American right being upheld in our own community’s discussions concerning the school bond issue. Long, impassioned pleas by both sides have given attention to the importance of truth and the freedom to express our opinion openly in our small community. Another issue that has received attention is the activity of the DEQ and the issue of oil waste disposal in Eastern Montana. Farmers and ranchers and the Northern Plains Resource Council have been given an opportunity to be heard at public hearings as well as expressing their opinions in a free and open press.
We must not ever take freedom of the press for granted. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, fighting the Nazi regime in his native Germany during World War II said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” To suppress a free press is to bring down a silence that destroys truth and a government in a democratic society made up of free men and women must never be afraid of the truth. One newspaper had on its masthead the words, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
Say “thank you” to the men and women of our local radio and tv stations and our newspaper who lift up the issues that are important to us right here. It is through their work we are heard.
Long ago volunteering was a part of surviving. You helped your neighbors and together you built barns and made quilts, and built school houses, and cleared the land for plowing and planting. You fought fires together and built churches and helped tend the dying and bury the dead. When someone with a wagon went to town they took orders from everyone as to what to pick up. When the snows were deep, the neighbors brought out their team of horses or oxen to help clear the roads. There was a sense of building a community, of knowing that surviving wasn’t a solitary journey, that it was shared by those around you. There were barn dances and hay rides and ice skating on the creek on a chilly winter’s night. To volunteer was simply to step out your door and knowing the needs of those around, the suffering as well as the accomplishments, it was to help. To help because that is just what human beings do for and with each other.
This sense of purpose, of mission, continued for a long time and it was a good thing. But at some point things began to go askew and there grew to be economic classes in society. There were the very rich and they had no clue as to how the poor lived. When the Industrial Revolution and increased mechanization changed the way things were done, the owners and the workers moved farther and farther apart. The rich could help with a donation of money, but the poor were not grateful because it wasn’t money they wanted, but friendship, joining hands and working together to make life better. The financial disparity between rich and poor has reached to astronomical proportions where a tiny percentage of humans control the wealth of the planet.
Then the urban areas began to grow in size and population increased and the rural areas diminished in numbers. As the speed of transportation increased, we covered long distances faster, but in so doing the places and the faces along the way began to blur and the freeways allowed us to speed past the small towns and the people where life was a little simpler and slower. Cities became the places of bright lights and excitement and now the stars in the Milky Way on a clear night in the country were not bright enough. Communication changed as well and rather than take time to type or write a letter, dwelling on the thoughts we want to impart, really thinking about what was important to us to say, we texted and tweeted and sent Instagrams until all sense of knowing what other people were really thinking deserted us completely. We walked down the streets intent on the instruments in our hands, our fingers flying and sending out short messages that have no depth or purpose.
There are some signs that perhaps volunteering and working together is not a lost art. Young people are joining those folks with grey hair who have seen the Earth fade away in lost glaciers or blow away in horrific hurricanes; living without the song of a bird or seeing the polar bears frolic on the ice fields is a precious treasure to lose. There is a new wind blowing. Will it be strong enough to save our land, to once again build community? To turn toward each other, joining hands to reestablish a human network? Or have we already seen the last volunteer and everything we do is too little, too late.
Last week I had the fun of showing Makoshika Park off twice. Once to a pastor friend and then to some relatives. Fortunately the Park cooperated beautifully and I was able to wheel them through the main parts without mishap. Of course the thing ever able-bodied person wants to do is climb into the draws and coulees in the area and there are lots of them. Makoshika is a wonderful spot for hikers, those who love climbing and even mountain biking lends itself as well. This photo is a view to the north and east.
The prairie flowers have lasted well into late summer due to the abundance of rain and cooler temperatures. A bow to climate change. As I said in an earlier post we have had more humidity as well. I lost a couple of bushes in my yard to a blight which the greenhouse person said was due to the wet, cool Spring. The bush was my strawberry hydrangea bush -- flowering and one I look forward to every year. I hope it comes back next year, but time will tell.
I have had to really slow down the last month as the pain in my leg has shifted to the hip. I keep on with the PT and will see the ortho specialist again today. I haven't been able to do all that needs to be done at church because of the issue. It really is frustrating, but I know many deal with structural issues.
There are so many sorrows in the world today one really does go into neutral. The political campaign we have with us for months to come and much can happen in the between times. Economics and world affairs are more than I want to tackle most of the time. I am grateful for the badlands and the river and the good people who cross my path; for quiet times; for good reading -- "Be still and know that I am God. . ." Psalm 46.