I know I supposedly summed up my thoughts on Ken Burns’s and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War, but I realized I had neglected to lodge one final complaint. While I don’t remember if the narrator (whom I took to be the voice of Burns & Novick) makes this claim, many interviewees act as if United States citizens had never opposed their government’s wars until Vietnam. The problem with this is that, in our moment of cultural backlash against the 1960s and 1970s, people may attribute opposition to today’s wars to be rooted in cultural developments of the 1960s and 1970s and hence dismiss it.
I’ve only watched the first 30 minutes of the first episode, so I can’t answer this question. I do say that these first 30 minutes leave me suspicious. The opening narration begins at 6:20 in the online video. Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall plays in the background.
6:20 Narrator: America’s involvement in Vietnam began in secrecy. It ended, 30 years later, in failure, witnessed by the entire world. It was begun in good faith by decent people, out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War miscalculation. And it was prolonged because it seemed easier to muddle through than admit that it had been caused by tragic decisions, made by five American presidents, belonging to both political parties.
During the Crusades, Saint Francis of Assisi risked his life by walking across enemy lines to meet the Sultan of Egypt, the Muslim ruler Al-Malik al-Kamil. This remarkable encounter, and the commitment to peace of the two men behind it, sucked the venom out of the Crusades and changed the relationship between Muslims and Christians for the better.
Featuring dramatic reenactments and renowned scholarship, this amazing story is brought to life. Scholars interviewed include Michael Cusato (St. Bonaventure University), Sr. Kathy Warren (Sisters of St. Francis), Suleiman Mourad (Smith College), Homayra Ziad, Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies, Paul Moses (The Saint and the Sultan), and others.
Join us for the Augusta Premiere to learn about the remarkable spiritual exchange between the Sultan and the Saint, and the great risks they took for peace.
Throughout the [Georgia] State Planning Board’s Report on Outdoor Recreation in Georgia (1939), the writers advocated for segregated recreational facilities based on racial and socioeconomic categories. … For white “land owners,” prime destinations apparently included coastal and mountain destinations “during the warm summer months” and “especially when crop prospects” were favorable. But for “the white tenant class of the farming population,” the report observed, “recreation among the men and boys” consisted primarily “of hunting and fishing” and sports. Additionally, these white tenant families–perhaps white wives and girls more specifically–enjoyed “old fashioned church sociables [sic] … and special events” such as barbecues. Finally the authors assessed African Americans, who were not subcategorized as property owners or tenants or by their sex. The authors’ racial stereotypes assumed that African Americans’ recreation was “peculiar to their racial characteristics” and only “centered around churches.” As such, African American recreation facilities only needed to include “simple local developments, such as playfields with barbecue grounds and swimming pools.” African Americans, so the thinking went, would not like the beach or mountains, and these prescriptions ultimately limited African American exposure to particular types of outdoor recreation and environments.
[McCormick, SC attorney] Frank Harrison was among a small group of regular writers to South Carolina’s congressional delegation who linked the Savannah River’s water and energy history to the nation’s civil rights conflict and postwar rights-based liberalism beginning in the 1950s. … “The taking of huge areas of private property by the Federal Government is becoming increasingly dangerous especially in view of the recent [Brown v Board of Education] Supreme Court decision and other actions of the administration in attempting to continue the centralizing power of the Federal Government.” “The widespread increase of federal public use and recreation areas may result in serious political repercussions in this state and other states because these areas may become areas which cannot be used to any extent by members of the white race.” … The conservative letter writers who shared their ideas about Trotters Shoals and environmental politics identified entitlements–to local self-determination, to peaceful segregated recreation, or access to the water supply–as fundamental rights. [pp 158-60]
I’ve previously blogged about the dangers of romanticizing the United States Civil War. Sinclair Lewis’s voice in It Can’t Happen Here, Doremus Jessup, in Chapter 13 considers the dangers posed by people who believe they have The Solution and questions the value his 1930s contemporaries place on the Civil War:
Slavery had been a cancer, and in that day was known no remedy save bloody cutting. There had been no X-rays of wisdom and tolerance. Yet to sentimentalize this cutting, to justify and rejoice in it, was an altogether evil thing, a national superstition that was later to lead to other Unavoidable Wars–wars to free Cubans, to free Filipinos who didn’t want our brand of freedom, to End All Wars.
Let us, thought Doremus, not throb again to the bugles of the Civil War, nor find diverting the gallantry of Sherman’s dashing Yankee boys in burning the houses of lone women, nor particularly admire the calmness of General Lee as he watched thousands writhe in the mud.