The Post and the Vietnam Memorial

“The Post” is a gripping film detailing the release of “The Pentagon Papers” by the Washington Post (and the New York Times) which document years of lies by successive American governments justifying the presence of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

I have little doubt that Katharine Graham, the owner of the Washington Post, and Ben Bradlee, the Editor, were accurately portrayed by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks (at least as much as film drama can sustain), but the BIG STAR (in my opinion) was the The Pentagon Papers.

Briefly summarizing, The Pentagon Papers were a highly classified study commissioned by the Department of Defense that documented U.S. political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.    Some 70,000 pages were secretly released to the New York Times and Washington Post by Daniel Ellsberg, an analyst at the Rand Corporation, for publication in 1971.

The Pentagon Papers revealed that most Americans were deceived by government leaders on the extent of the U.S. government’s role in Vietnam. Wikipedia quotes a 1996 article in The New York Times stating that the Pentagon Papers had demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress.”

As one who lived through the drama of the publication of these Papers, the overriding message of this drama was the fact that 58,000 kids died at the behest of government leaders who blatantly lied to them, their families and the American public.   Sure, Daniel Ellsberg and the press showed great courage in publishing these documents, but the real tragedy is the number of innocent kids trapped by forced conscription who paid the ultimate sacrifice for leaders who couldn’t level with the American public.

Vietnam Memorial

A few days ago, I had a chance to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.   It is a sobering reminder of how “John or Jane Doe” generally pay the price for misguided leadership – no matter how seemingly altruistic the cause.

Today, we are once again engaged in an increasingly vitriolic exercise in finger-pointing to determine the “truth.”   If history is any lesson, the “truth” is most elusive, but hopefully another 58,000 will not have to die for self-serving politicians on all sides of the political spectrum.

Before Sheila and I left D.C., we had a very pleasant dinner with our good friends Tim and Patricia.  Toward the end of a late evening we discussed the legacy of our generation.   Collectively, we generally agreed that we had let down future generations by not seizing the opportunity to create a better world.

If history serves as a lesson (or, perhaps, consolation to our aging generation), many others have also failed to leave the world a more peaceful and better place.  Sadly, I think we have lost our sense of perspective which only an immersion in history can restore.   Unfortunately, far too many people seem intent of rewriting history than drawing lessons from it.

“Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true.”
Swami Vivekananda

What Happens to Your Social Media Accounts When You Die?

Last night I had a nightmare:  What happens to your social media accounts when you die?   I suppose it doesn’t make much difference to the deceased, but your Facebook “Friends” might like to know so they won’t be prompted to send you a Happy Birthday message each year.

Social Media

It appears that I am not the first person to reflect on this New Age question.  In a somewhat disturbing article, the BBC posed the same question well over two years ago:   What Happens to Your Facebook Profile After You Die?

According to the BBC (presumably courtesy of Facebook), the answer seems to be quite simple:

  1. “If you die, a relative or friend can request for your Facebook profile to become memorialised. It essentially freezes the page in time. Whoever requests it will have to give Facebook some proof that you have died, such as a death certificate.”   Or . . .
  2. You can nominate a “legacy contact”. This is someone to look after your memorialised account. They can do things like write a pinned post, respond to new friend requests, and update the profile picture and cover photo. But they still can’t log in to your account – so they can’t delete anything.

Now, Google is somewhat different:

Google has now rolled out a technological solution, a euphemistically titled “Inactive Account Manager” tool (“Control what happens to your account when you stop using Google,” the company says, i.e. die). With the tool, you set an amount of time you want Google to wait before taking action (3, 6, 9 months, or a year). One month before that deadline, if Google hasn’t heard from you, it will send you an alert by either email or text message. If that month closes out and you still have not re-entered your account, Google will notify your “trusted contacts” — you can list up to 10 — and share your data with them if you have so chosen. 

For individuals owning websites, you can arrange to “transfer” ownership at the time of death or have multiple administrators and registers of the website domain.

Frankly, I consider these protective measures to be overkill (no pun intended) since people who scribbled their memoirs in notebooks and on the backs of envelopes were hardly afforded the same luxury.

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

The Righteous Mind
This year for Christmas, I gave my son-in-law Dan and my wife Sheila a book entitled “The Righteous Mind:  Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt.

I’ll be honest, the title intrigued me and I was interested in discovering the secret of connecting with many “good people” on all sides of the political and religious spectrum.

Mind you, a little “love” and empathy is sorely needed at this time of great political and social upheavals.

Furthermore, I was intrigued by people’s reaction to the following situations (Dan pointed these out shortly after opening his present):

“A family’s dog was killed by a car in front of their house.  They had heard that dog meat was delicious, so they cut up the dog’s body and cooked it and ate it for dinner.  Nobody saw them do this.”   Or . . .

“A man goes to the supermarket once a week and buys a chicken.  But before cooking the chicken, he has sexual intercourse with it.  Then he cooks and eats it.”

Now, I do not intend to spoil this “good” but challenging read on morality, but you can rest assured that logic and common sense are vastly overrated in trying to unite “good people”  divided by politics and religion.

For those that can’t resist to getting to the punch line, Mr. Haidt concludes with the following:  “Morality binds and blinds.  It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle.  It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.”

His key recommendation (also at the end of the book for those who can’t stomach a moral philosophy read) is this:   “Our politics will become more civil when we find ways to change the procedures electing politicians and the institutions and environments within which they interact.”  He suggests the following website:   www.CivilPolitics.org

For those who want to explore moral philosophy, test your own moral compass at YourMorals.org