Friday, May 7, 2010

Random Historical Thoughts and Commentaries

Lately I have been engulfed in a wonderful book called "The Cormany Diaries - A Northern Family in the Civil War." As stated in its title, it is the diary and journal of Samuel Cormany and Rachel Bowman respectively, beginning with entries from before the two even met and continues through their courtship, marriage, and birth of their child up until the end of the Civil War. What I find thoroughly fascinating about this book, besides, of course, reading 1st person accounts of everyday life as lived during the mid-19th century, are the thoughts and feelings that show well the times in which these two young people lived. In particular it shows the morals and mores of the period. For instance, Rachel, who took a job as a school teacher and was boarding with a family far from her home, wrote in her journal on July 7, 1860 (around five months before her marriage to Samuel) (spelling and grammar intact):
"I have great things to write this morning. Last evening after I had been to my boarding place a little while Joanna Dickson came there. They were talking and laughing about something. at last Joanna said, 'Miss B. you did not know that Joab C. had become daddy." I was perfectly dumbfounded. I did not know what to say. I was to Mr. Carpenters on Monday night & about 12 o'clock at night some men came there. Marinda and I had just gone to bed. it scared us, we thought they were robbers, we were silenced by being told that they must be drunk. I have found out since that it was the Constable & that he came & took Joab off that night up to Orange station, where the girl lives. Early in the morning Mr. C went up to help settle it. I was at their house helping Marinda make her dress. On the 4th Marinda, Joab & I went to Columbus and never found a word of it out till last evening. I fear it will injure me some, being a stranger here. Although I never once went with him alone, still I was in his company. I can hardly bear to stay over here now, it makes me feel awful to think I had anything to say to such a man. I feel like taking a good cry."

We here in the 21st century look at the values and morals of Rachel's time and think them quaint, do we not? We feel that because we are more 'accepting' that we are better for it. And, because of this, we consider ourselves "enlightened." It seems in today's society that we become more 'enlightened' due to less values and morals.
Of course, values and morals change over time, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. I must admit that I am glad that folks who have children out of wedlock are no longer a scourge in our society. I only wish it wasn't quite as tolerable in the sense that it happens so often...too often.
And to be enlightened should not mean to be more accepting, but, rather, more aware.


For quite a while I have been hearing and seeing advertisements about the History Channel's extensive new 12 hour mini-series "America: The Story of Us," claiming that this was the first time in something like 40 years that such a task of telling America's history was undertaken. I really wasn't sure just how good it would be, I mean, this is the History Channel and we all know how little real history is shown. I also figured it would be filled with Howard Zinn-type leftist propaganda with nothing (or very little at best) to off-set his one-sided revisionist pap that seems to pass as actual American history, and I would probably find myself getting very frustrated watching it.
Well, I have watched the first four hours so far.
I'm giving it, at this point, a C-. But, not necessarily for its leftist leanings (not nearly as left as I thought it would be, I must say).
I guess I should have known better than to ever think the History Channel would do American history any real justice.
Again, I have only watched four hours of the 12 hour series - I have not seen the show in its entirety. But, since I specialize in early-to-mid-19th century living, with the colonial period a close second, I have to tell you that their coverage of this period so far is, well, pretty lame.
I have been sorely disappointed.
So let's speak of the content inside the program, or the lack thereof. As most know, it seems that history as it's told today only tells half of the story, conveniently leaving out information that would give a more complete understanding of the why's and the wherefores of our founding fathers. I was hoping that "America: The Story of Us," being 12 hours in length, just might finally tell us the whole story.
I was wrong.
In fact, I was speechless (if you can believe that) at the amount of American history that was missing.
First off, they forgot about the explorers; Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Ponce Di Leon, Hernando De Soto, and a number of others. Nada. Nothing. Totally ignored. The powers that be just do not seem to understand that good or bad, right or wrong, these men were a very important part of American history.
But, there was a piece on Jamestown. For about five minutes.
Oh, and the pilgrims received about 7 minutes of air time...maybe...
The French and Indian War? What? Was there a war fought in the mid-18th century? Do the good folks at the History Channel not realize the importance of this, ahem, forgotten war, and what a major role it was to the story of us?
Obviously not. Ice Truckers, however, they know about.
The show then jumped from the early 17th century to the Rev War in less than a half hour. This is including the opening credits and the speech from Obama. That's roughly 170 years in less than 30 minutes.
Something's amiss here.
The images on the screen (many - too many - computerized images) jumped and flashed and swirled in dizzying fashion as if I was watching an MTV-style program - the flashiness over-shadowed the content.
And I haven't even said anything on the poor choices for commentators: Sheryl Crow? Michael Douglas? P. Diddy? Donald Trump? Meryl Streep? The "Reverand" Al Sharpton? Since when does being an actor or a singer or a billionaire (or a loudmouth) make one knowledgeable on American history (or any other subject for that matter)?
Why would they not get actual historians for a project such as this? At least one could then take it a bit more seriously. And, please don't say it wouldn't be as interesting with boring old historians. Ken Burns has already proven everyone who thinks this way wrong!
The next episode is going to be about the Civil War. I am a Yankee tried and true, but I will be interested to see how the confederacy will be treated. Will they show both sides' opinions?
Ahhh...there I go again!
As far as the rest of the story, methinks that the last six hours that will follow the Civil War episode will be mostly 20th and 21st century. The first six hours were for the first 300 years, and the last six hours for the last 100 years (or thereabouts).
The story of us indeed!
I'll stick to my books.

1 comment:

Mrs. G said...

Ken, you need to get with the program my friend. The explorers? You've gotta be kidding me, those European genocidal bigots? Who wants to study them? We've gotta push the "white man guilt".
There is a series of books called "The Story Of Us", I wonder if it's the same?

I'm glad your book is good anyway!

Your friend,