Thursday, November 01, 2007
"Who are we?" According to Ken Burns that is the question we seek to answer by "listening" to the stories of history. He spoke tonight at ISU. I turned to my father when he was done and said "He sure talks pretty". Been a long time since I went and listened to an artsy guy like that speak. Lots of words, sometimes I thought they were being spent a little too frivolously but rethought that after I left. He was just artsy and that is cool. He warned of viewing American past with contemporary disgust at evil White European men, but also not blindly worshiping them all. The past is inescapably complex and you must try to understand the stories. "Listen" he would say time and time again as he told another one. He also implored us to think on what it means to know that we are a nation that was founded around a set of ideas. How unique it is, that this must be what unifies us. As a warning on war he stated more then once to look to our religious teaching of the past to understand the nature of our desire to make war.
He talked largely about his most recent work The War and a bit about his older work The Civil War. 17 years later he joke he has a new work out which amounted to removing the word "Civil". I have seen some of both of them and both are excellent and unique.
The last question he took was worth the wait. It was comparing the sense of shared sacrifice from WWII to the current war. Burns said there is no unifying sacrifice on this current effort. He waited after 9/11 for the President to tell him what to give and would have given more he said. But instead we were told to "not worry our pretty little heads about it. Now go shopping." Where as in WWII we gave so much and ended up richer, financially richer, for it at the end of the war. This is a destructive difference he said. I must agree.
THE WAR American Anthem by Norah Jones PBS