Just Gimme Some Truth
Some time ago, my husband and I saw the documentary, The U.S. vs. John Lennon. John Lennon has been, for most of my life, one of my major role models, and I loved him as much as any public figure there has ever been. I cried for three days when he died, and I still cry when I see film of him. I cried this time. But this movie is about so much more than John Lennon the man. This movie is about how government can be misused, and the dangers a dishonest government poses. There were obvious parallels to be drawn about the unwinnable war in Vietnam and the unwinnable war in Vietnam.
But I think there are other more important impressions to gather from the movie, and they struck me very hard.
The first has to do with the idea of patriotism. When I was joining thousands and thousands of young people to protest against the war in Viet Nam, we did not care whether people thought we were unpatriotic. In fact, the last thing we wanted was to be called "patriotic." We equated that word with an unwavering love of country that overshadowed all moral values, common sense, and respect for the value of human life, and we wanted nothing to do with it. Now, people are afraid of being called "unpatriotic." They will deny one of the very foundations on which this country was founded, the right to free speech, in order to avoid being thought not to love the country enough. If we love the country, we owe it to America to stand up and say what we believe, and if that belief is that this war is wrong and unwinnable and that Bush's government is the most corrupt and dishonest government we have ever had, then we owe it to America to say so. And those people who do not agree with us about that, owe it to America to still respect our right to say so, loud and clear and as often and publicly as we want to. That, after is, is what makes this country different.
The other thing that struck me most strongly while watching this movie is the incredible way the media has changed since the '60's. We understood what Viet Nam was all about. We saw it on the news every night! We saw long lines of body bags and flag-draped coffins; we saw villages burning, blindfolded prisoners, people being shot point-blank, bodies falling into mass graves..we were forced to confront Evil, and we could not look away. We had to choose a side. And we did.
But with Iraq, most of the time the war does not even dominate the front page of the paper or the lead story of the news. Sometimes, the whole news broadcast barely mentions it. The government has decreed that the media can not show body bags. There have been hardly any pictures of the wounded soldiers, although this war has seen less deaths and more mutilations than any other, due to the advances in body armor and medicine. We can keep them alive, but not whole. Still, we're not forced to face that. We read about the IEDs, and how they are blowing up army vehicles right and left, but how often have you seen a picture of a blown-apart vehicle? I've seen a few, because I was doing market research in a military area that required me to access government sites aimed at the military, and I saw them there. But in the general media, they are few and far between. The media is greatly restricted in what they are allowed to show, and the excuse is "national security." But I believe the reason is that if we aren't forced to see the war, then we are not forced to face that ugly truth of it, and we can somehow try to pretend there's some nobility in it. We say that to speak against the war is to speak against those fighting in it, as though wanting them to come home alive and not be sacrificed to the cause of nothing is a bad thing.
Another change in the media is in the treatment of the protests that are taking place. Where is the news coverage? I took part in a march against the war on April 1st of last year in Atlanta. There were thousands of people marching from the King Center to Piedmont Park. And it was not just young people. The march included people of all races and ages, clergy, businessmen and women, housewives, parents and children. All along the way, people waved and blew their horns. I did not hear one shout of "Go home!" or "Love it or leave it!" like in the old days. BUT...the next day, I checked the papers. No sign of the march. I j checked Google, and I could find no mainstream mention of it closer than a newspaper in Tennessee. And this is not just happening in Atlanta. Protests are happening everywhere, all the time, and they are not even making the news.
This, to me, is terrifying. In the '60's, sure, we were getting beaten, hauled off to jail, maced, even shot at..but we were being heard and seen. What would have happened to the Civil Rights Movement, I wonder, if the papers had ignored the protestors?
Even more chillingly, I wonder, if 4 young protestors of the Iraq War were shot dead by the National Guard, would it even make the National News, like Kent State did? I hope so, I think so, but I'm not sure, and to me, that is terrifying.
The President is trying to pass laws that allow us to ignore the Geneva Convention, so that we have virtually no limits on what we can do to prisoners of war. Already, we are holding them indefinitely without trial, torturing them, humiliating them-and most of America just does not seem to want to know.
How did this happen? How did we allow the government to silence opposition so thoroughly? How did we allow the media to be blindered? Why did we let this happen? I know that 9/11 scared us, but I cannot believe that we are giving our right to the truth away in the name of "patriotism" and "national security." Wake up, people! Just because you can't see it and you can't hear it, doesn't mean the evil is not there! History is full of crimes committed in the name of patriotism and national security.
Will we every learn?