"The War"...And This War
Ken Burns is to brevity what the Green Bay Packers are to running the football.
That said, I have nothing but good things to say about Burns' latest effort, "The War". His multi-part look at World War II as seen through the eyes of four different U.S. communities is riveting. There's no narrator, just people telling their stories (you might recognize Tom Hanks, reading hometown newspaper articles). Some are poignant. Others are disturbing--simple words painting pictures of acts so vile and inhumane that video would serve only as overkill.
A recurring theme throughout the series is the fact that World War Two brought the nation together--seemingly everyone had family in the military,if indeed they weren't serving themselves. Many lost a relative, a friend, a neighbor. And, everyone sacrificed. Rationing was the rule of the day. Who didn't have a "Victory Garden"? How many people led scrap drivers or sold War Bonds? Didn't everyone "Wash and Squash" their old cans so they could be reused in the war effort? Who would've known how much glycerin could be conjured from a pound of bacon grease...and turned into ammunition?
Fast forward to 2007.
You can't help but to compare the attitude that prevailed 50+ years ago with what's going on now. Iraq, like Vietnam, is dividing us, and there doesn't seem to be much in the way of genuine, constructive debate when it comes to deciding what our course of action should be. Presidential candidates scurry from their past votes supporting our original effort. Others equate the war to the fight against Al Qaida. And, way too much time was given to MoveOn's "New York Times" ad which spoke for no one other than those who paid for the space yet got hung on virtually anyone who disagrees with the Bush Administration.
What does our current overseas action cost the average American? Tax dollars, for sure. There are some of us who have military attachments. Most of us only know there's a war going on when we try getting on an airplane...the removal of shoes in the security line amounting to the sum total of our "war effort." And, many of us bitch about that.
The other thing I've noticed about Ken Burns' "The War"? You don't see any of those "Support Our Troops" ribbons affixed to any of the cars of that era. That's because the folks of the 40's didn't need bumper stickers to remind everyone who's side they were on. Everyone was pulling the same rope in one direction. It was something you KNEW. It wasn't something you WORE.
No one wants war, and I hope that we don't need another global conflict to bring us together. That said, let us remember what true sacrifice is all about. Our men and women overseas every day are giving lives and limbs. We owe them honest debate about their effort, their future, and their way home when the job is done. They don't need our gardens or our bacon grease quite yet, but they certainly deserve something more than partisanship, political posturing, and hot-button rhetoric.
After all, this, too is "War."