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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Never really commented on the Ken Burns series, did I?

Haven't known just what to say about it after the huge build-up. Disappointed? I suppose so. It felt excessive and self-indulgent to me -- but then what do I know, right? A good editor could have sharpened it up by cutting drastically. The brutality was so repetitive that I found myself turning away for long periods and then tuning back in hope that it would have eased up. Never thought I'd see the day when a few commercials would have helped by providing much-needed breaks from the sheer misery of what was being shown on the small screen. However, that, after all is the nature of war. What did I expect?

Watching the replay of WWII against the background of current news from the everyday horrors of the Mid East made it even harder to deal with. But then, maybe that was the intent of the epic series. I'm not sure. I hated the fact that we've learned so little from that horrific experience not yet a lifetime away; that we're still willing to gouge out eyes as souvenirs of war and to burn small children in the interest of the protection of oil reserves and Empire. That primal cruelty is still so close to the surface of humanity. That -- in our lifetimes -- we would be splitting hairs over what constitutes torture. And -- I hated the idea (stronger with each day) that We the People are fast-becoming "the Good Germans."

I'm under no illusion that -- as an African American -- I'm exempt from such a charge. To the extent that I, too, benefit from policies that rape the planet and destroy humanity, the guilt is shared by us all. Though I feel as if we've been duped into believing that -- along with white privilege would have come white power and white wisdom. How naive a notion that should have been outgrown years ago! That, combined with current awareness that power, wisdom, and privilege can be abused by any human beings, regardless of skin color. One needs only to look at Central and West Africa and the Arab Emirates for evidence of privilege gone wild.

I was wrong about the African American story not being told. It was. However, that only served to increase the silent rage I've carried around for a lifetime by being a reminder of things I'd pushed back for decades; things I knew in the deep recesses of my mind, but that were suppressed for the most part. The extent to which I felt renewed humiliation is probably a measure of how far we may or may not have come in what is now socially acceptable behavior. That I can express the anger with hope of being heard is new. My parents simply acquiesced; made do. They expected far less than I do in the everyday living of life. Along with those new freedoms, though, comes the acceptance of shared guilt and responsibility for what my nation does in the world, and the sense that those around me are as helpless as I to bring change. That, too, is new.

The tools with which to bring change seem so fragile, don't they? "Get out and vote!" "Lobby your congresspersons!" "Conserve energy!" and the ever-constant, "Send us a check!" These all seem so useless in turning around the Ship of State. I suppose I'm no longer envious of youth, and in a strange way am somewhat grateful for having lived these last 8 decades (and more) and that time is winding down now. The next 8 are frightening to anticipate. Those will be the years that our children and grandchildren must survive.

Oh how I wish for a way to stop the clock -- just so we can gain the time to better match our future to our ideals! But then maybe the real problem involves fine-tuning our ideals so that they better conform to those who conceived the Constitution and Bill of Rights ... though flawed -- they at least created the blueprint that should have sustained us as a nation. The erosion of principle under today's policies is staggering!

I'm no longer certain that my continuing anger at Ken Burns isn't a simple case of wanting to kill the messenger.

But I have to deposit it somewhere or it will eat me alive!

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