Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Different Reminder of the Costs of War

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, what I regard as the seminal event in the history of our country.

The war was fought over slavery, in spite of all the efforts to erase the shameful stain that comes from the realization that men would take up arms for the right to own and sell other men, that is an indisputable and inglorious fact.

But the Civil War is a troubling reminder of the cost of war. The horror of it. The brave men and women who fight and die because of it. The loss of talent and treasure. And the separation of loved ones from one another, in life and through death.

Ken Burn's classic documentary, now some 20 years old is a wonderful and accessible retelling of that tail and this clip is a version of one of my favorite segments: Union soldier Sullivan Ballou's farewell letter to his wife Sarah. These photos (although not from the original segment of the documentary are a haunting depiction of the terror of armed conflict. And the music - Ashokan Farewell - is a wonderfully wistful piece that lends excruciating pathos to beautiful prose of the letter.

Maybe President's should be required to listen to this before they determine to send our citizens into war. 

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