Every once in a while, I’m hit by the realization that the parameters of our political dialogue have become more and more restricted in the US today. A couple of reminders for me in the past few days make this clearer than usual today.
One recent reminder I've seen is historical in nature. A new documentary about the resistance to the Vietnam War within the military, “Sir! No Sir!,” includes scenes of soldiers attending coffeehouses outside their barracks and speaking out at protests against the war during the 1960’s and 70’s. The film records the hidden history of their resistance to a war they believed illegal. The terms they speak in are those of idealistic young men and women, doing their best to square their experience with their principles. The documentary incorporates clips from the major television networks commenting on the sweep of antiwar sentiment within the armed forces (clips you'd certainly never see today). "Sir, No Sir" implicitly expresses the zeitgeist of that period and its inherent resistance to arbitrarily wielded authority. This particular reminder of dissent is inspiring and refreshing. It makes it easier to stand up to the aggressive behavior of our leaders today, looking back on what we all lived through in those times. The courage of men and women in uniform to not only put their lives on the line in battle, but to risk all else in speaking out make an example that speaks loudly to our timid and cynical moment in history.
The second thing that gets me thinking about the parameters of our current political discourse is the news that the late Jack Anderson’s files are to be screened and purged of government ‘secrets’ by the FBI. Can one imagine Anderson’s response to this? It should make us all look hard at the real motives of an entitled bunch of government snoops. Jack Anderson was always uncovering abuse of secrecy in government to cover up perfidy and incompetence. Now, it seems someone has decided it’s safe to get at Anderson’s files and clean them up in the wake of his death.
It better hit some in the mainstream media hard to see this kind of knock on journalism’s door today. The next time they come looking for files, it probably will be for those of the living.