The extent to which people allow ourselves to view other people as different has amazed me as long as I can remember. I could never understand how otherwise decent people can justify killing other human beings. I guess I understood the abstract intellectualizing of such acts, but to actually contemplate and carry through the act seems peculiar.
Even more strange is how we justify killing one another over ideas we have in our brains. I mean, I can understand the justification of repelling an invader of the home territory in as much as I would wish to discourage a burglar or other criminal from entering my house. I just don’t see the part of killing someone because he has different opinions from mine.
I have known war veterans and have discussed the question with many of them. They seem to be as puzzled as I am. Most have said something along the lines of fulfilling a duty. Some veterans told me they had to subvert their natural aversions and submit to authority figures.
From time to time I like to ponder the question of the violence we commit upon each other. The latest piece of work I have viewed is the National Geographic Society’s documentary “Civil Warriors”. I recently found a copy in the Norfolk Public Library. The program is presented on two DVDs and is accompanied by a third disc that contains bonus features.
The producers and writers utilized a personal approach in telling the story. That is, decendents of some of the figures of the war were brought to the sites of the battles and areas of conflict.
For instance, the producers brought Roger Fisk to the battlefields where his great, great, grandfather fought on the side of the Union. Using letters and written accounts, Fisk learned of his ancestor’s idealism and courage to not only preserve the United States, but to also free the slaves.
There are other families involved in the production as well. One of the most heart wrenching examples is that of Dr. William Child. The doctor’s descendent, Tim Sawyer, examined the gruesome medical conditions of the battlefield environment. Coincidentally, Dr. Child was present at Ford’s Theater when President Abraham Lincoln was shot. The doctor was turned away in favor of another physician who had already began to attend to Lincoln’s wounds.
A new technological production technique enhances the viewing experience. Archival photographs of the period have been digitally animated, bringing to life many of the events.
The battlefield re-enactments were well done and seamlessly included into the story with minimal distraction and fanfare.
The two technical features plus the personal viewpoints make for an emotionally riveting program series. There are three chapters in the documentary: “Families At War”, “Free At Last”, and “The Hard War”. The program is a good introduction to anybody who wants a good understanding of the American Civil War. The production also sheds new light on some aspects of the conflict thus making it a satisfying experience for more experienced history buffs.
The bonus disc brings a more marine aspect to mind. There is the recovery of the U.S.S. Republic steamliner as the first feature. The second and third programs involve the Confederacy’s experimental submarine boat. All three of the features look at the two vessels from an archaeological viewpoint.
If you can find a copy to borrow or buy, you’ll not be disappointed with this top quality presentation. It’s a view of an history that still causes division in the USA.
The Blue Jay of Happiness hopes you take a few moments to reflect on the rich history of our world.