Sunday, August 27, 2017

Refuse The Line

To supress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. Frederick Douglass

America's Civil War is in the headlines again. The purpose, near as I can tell, is to reexamine old animosities in order to gain new political advantage. Such is the confusing, superficial and damaging discourse that passes for collaborative conversation.

But, to quote the Mayor of Chicago - never let a good crisis go to waste. Someone has posted Ken Burns' national treasure onto YouTube!

To watch this masterpiece of historical genius is to be awash in the currents that made America what she was in the middle 1800s. It is lavishly photographed, wonderfully paced and beautiful to behold. No one's understanding of that period is complete without it.

Narrator David McCullough (himself  a highly regarded author, scholar and historian) draws depth from the spoken score. An array of Civil War experts contribute insights accumulated along a lifetime of study. Period photography brings the viewer into the lives of the famous and the ordinary, to places that are familiar and obscure. The faces of those held in bondage are particularly moving - the simmering anger, the helplessness, resignation.

One hears the beauty of the score - the solo piano rendering of "Battle Cry of Freedom" so elegant that it left the recording crew in tears. The period pieces that capture the folly, the sense of adventure and the desperation that war brings. Then, there is Jay Ungar's "Ashokan Farewell."

Visit the places. Read the books. Find the interviews (if for no other reason than to hear the charming, deeply-Southern voice of Shelby Foote). There is no reason not to use this as an opportunity to discover how much more there is to know.

You might just agree with this Churchill quote, repeated by Mr. McCullough in many of his pieces:

"We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy."

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