Those Who Don't Learn From History
by Edward Copeland
While The War, the latest epic documentary by Ken Burns (along with his co-director and co-producer Lynn Novick and writer Geoffrey C. Ward) has garnered mostly (and deservedly) rhapsodic reviews, I noticed a recurring theme in much of the criticism. Many writers keep pointing out how much of the material in his look back at America's involvement in World War II has been covered before, both in fiction and nonfiction forms. That is true, but a lot of The War is fresh and, more importantly, informative. While I'm no WWII expert, I do know a lot of what happened through various sources, yet I still learned a lot from this seven-part, nearly 16 hours-long work. What's tragic is that the people who probably most need to see it probably never will and while The War reminded me of things I knew (or had forgotten) and informed me of things I didn't, most often I kept thinking about how many Americans are ignorant of the facts about this and many other parts of history that they should know about. In an interview, Burns said one of the things that prompted him to embark on this project was learning that a sizable number of American students believed the U.S. fought alongside Germany in WWII against Russia. If only that were an isolated statistic and that sort of stunning misconception were limited to the young.
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