Don't Rush Me
America: The Story of Us
. . . and other things
August 17, 2011 - In the eyes of my sons I am sure they view me as The Meanest Dad in town.
To bolster that image, over the past three weekends I had on TV the History Channel's, America: The Story of Us. As The Meanest Dad in town, I even said before starting the show, "And, now for your viewing pleasure . . ." then pressed play.
To reinforce the notion that I am also The Cheapest Dad in town, I borrowed the three-disc series from the library. There is no cable or satellite TV at Casa d'Rush. Nor is the home wired for internet access. If they complain they get conversation-killing Mean Dad retort, "Guess it sucks to be you."
I am not trying to be mean or cheap, I just think it's important that -- even passively -- those who will one-day be our leaders, understand a little about their country. (And, I say "passively" because even if they were not paying attention, sound waves from the narration still had to make an impression on their subconscious, through the auditory canal, past the ear drum and to the brain via nerve endings. It's science, so it must be so.)
I liked the series. Son Sean, 11, at least humored me and asked to watch a few episodes. Shamus, 13, put up with about three of the 12 episodes before removing himself from the vicinity all together.
The series (nine hours) is narrated by actor Liev Schreiber and covers America's history from "the starving time" of the Jamestown colony up to 2010. (I believe the series originally aired two springs ago.) It was visually stirring with use of filmed re-creations, still photos, paintings, actual footage and computer generated special effects.
Well-written, it covered American triumphs, its not-so-noble chapters like slavery and racism and tragic times and moments like the Depression, Vietnam-Watergate era, the Spaceshuttle Challenger's explosion and terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The underlying theme throughout all the episodes (with titles like Rebels, Westward, Division, Boom, Bust and Millennium) was an intangible tagged "the" American spirit. That spirit of if you can dream it, you can build it propelled this country of ours to be the world's leader by way of technological innovations.
Americans were not constrained to do things the way they were always done. Optimistically they moved forward, for better and sometimes worse -- from the famed Kentucky Rifle that helped defeat the British, to the Cotton Gin, Carnegie's steel mills, barbed wire, the light bulb, assembly line production, Jeeps, the A-bomb, interstate highways, going to the moon, personal computers to Wikipedia.
The series also offered insightful commentary by Colin Powell, Tom Brokaw, Buzz Aldrin, Al Sharpton, US Marine First Sergeant William Bodette and Rudy Guliani. I could have done without the "expert" commentary from entertainers like Michael Douglas, Maraget Cho, Tony Bennet, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etherridge, Martha Stewart and Meryl Streep. But, what the heck, you can't hit a homerun all the time, right?
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While watching the series, a number of thoughts came to mind.
1. Industrialist/entrepreneur/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie reminds me of the character Hank Rearden in Ayn Rand's 1,368-page novel, Atlas Shrugged, written in 1957. This leads me to ask, "Who is John Galt?"
2. I need to re-read Joe Ellis' 2007 book, American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. This book covers the period from before the war for independence to roughly the Louisiana Purchase. The premise, if I remember correctly, is that the Founding Fathers were neither demigods, nor just rich, racist white guys. They were merely the right men at the right time in the right neighborhood.
And, 3. A while back I asked a mentor of mine why he thought he was successful. His comment has stuck with me and has caused me much pondering.
"I was afraid to fail."
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I went to the internet, and to the History Channel's website, you can still watch the series online, or you can buy it from Amazon.com, or (if you're cheap like me) go to the library and borrow it.
Comments? E-mail Don@ShermanPublications.org
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org