Media serve vital role in democracy

To the editor:

Ken Burns’ 18-hour-long film (available at no cost to Portage Lake District Library cardholders) about the Vietnam War made me feel grateful to be living now, when the light of truth, shined into dark corners, is made public more quickly than it was 50 years ago.  I did not know that candidate Richard Nixon interfered with the peace process in 1968 to prevent President Johnson from taking credit for ending the war.  Nixon’s fear that his meddling would be discovered contributed to his paranoia and determination to bug the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in 1972.

Featured in the series are North Vietnamese veterans and civilians whose attitudes toward the war were surprisingly similar to those of Americans.  The hard-liners on both sides (Ho Chi Minh was not one of them) incited their people to sacrifice themselves. As in all wars, some people profited and misused their power until enough citizens became informed and demanded an end to the fighting.  

Walter Cronkite went to Vietnam in 1968, and he reported that things were not going as well as our leaders were telling us they were.  Cronkite served our republic by speaking truth to power, and citizens took to the streets.  

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team are hard at work today, trying to determine whether our nation has been violated, and investigative journalists are doing their best to inform us.  Will we trust their findings?

Media only serve democracy when they share what is true.   Today’s cable companies hold onto viewers  by telling them what they want to hear.  Where is the reporter who, like Walter Cronkite, can bring us together around the truth?

Ken Burns has a common theme in all his films. A huge patriot, he believes that, when we embrace the truth about our history, we will overcome the hyper-partisanship that currently characterizes our society. The final word in the Vietnam series is “reconciliation,” a choice we can make when we value peace more than violence.