Comparing 1971 and Now: By Virginia Lapham

I recently saw The Post movie and it brought back all the strong feelings and concerns about our democracy that led to organizing the eastern towns and villages of Westchester Co, NY in 1971 to support publishing of the Pentagon Papers and to oppose the Viet Nam war that was still taking the lives of 300 US soldiers and countless other lives every day. What worries me is that I started with a one paragraph notice in the local paper about a meeting at my house and 17 journalists, academics and other amazing leaders showed up. Not sure any newspaper would run a notice like this today. And fear it is unlikely the current Supreme Court would rule in favor of the NY Times and Washington Post expressing free speech.

We formed a local peace action group and one of our first actions was a 24-hour vigil-protest in front of the police station in Larchmont, NY on the 4th of July that attracted several hundred local residents. It took some time to convince the police of our peaceful intent but they believed us and gave a permit. I wonder if a police department would give a permit today. We held meetings in churches and public places to educate the community, visited Tom Watson at IBM to ask him to stop making anti-personnel weapons, joined other groups in protesting in front of the White House and when our arrests went to court, the judge dismissed all the charges. We continued standing for democracy through the Nixon dirty tricks and resignation.

I share this because we were not unique. Such groups organized all over the country and led to the Viet Nam war finally being ended and a president resigning.

We are now in another constitutional crisis in our country. Millions of women and supportive men are marching! There is little media attention as pointed out on NPR and more institutional resistance than in 1971. But we are also more diverse and have more communication channels to know what is going on if we take time to refute fake news and alternative facts and seek the truth. Will we persevere and save our democracy?