Monday, July 11, 2011

History Presents, America The Story Of Us, Rebels & Millennium

History, formerly known as The History Channel has become quite a force in cable networks. Not only are they presenting quality programs such as Pawn Stars, Pickers and more, they are producing quality programs that present a side of history that many need to be reminded of. While there are the controversial alien shows there are also examples such as the two recent programs, just released on DVD re from the series, America, The Story of US, including Rebels and Millennium. These two DVD’s present a side of history many should know, but unfortunately have either forgotten or didn’t learn.

Both DVD’s explore various stages of development in the United States. Rebels looks at the early stages of development that concludes with The Revolutionary war and Millennium look at recent history over the last hundred years, up to and including the space age and war on terror shortly thereafter the attacks on The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Millennium also looks at how America became a world power and the reality of the timing of my viewing of this documentary wasn’t lost on me, that being, the same day as the last launch of the space shuttle.

History has done an excellent job at producing high quality programming that transfers to DVD in documentary format, from the excellent animation to quality reenactments and narration. The images on screen and scripting of both programs provide not only quality education, but quality entertainment. Rebels is the first part of a 12 part mini-series and Millennium the last. Each episode and DVD stands on its own.

In Rebels I especially enjoyed the aspects of history presented I didn’t know. One included the number of Blacks who fought for the United States during the Revolutionary War, and the speculation that the first Patriot killed was in fact, a black man. There is more though, one being the background of Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand von Steuben also known as Baron von Steuben. He was a General George Washington used to train troops and many credit as being the primary reason for the turn of events in the war. Few know of his historical contribution to America’s freedom. It is speculated that few know of him in part due to the fact that von Steuben was a ‘blatant homosexual.’ The understanding and reality that all people were involved in America’s freedom in this series is quite enlightening. Another surprise for many will also be the importance of Tobacco in early America.

In Millennium I was reminded of the pride many took in the space program and the role it played in a difficult time, especially the 1960’s and 70’s. There is a display of American Spirit and Pride that is admirable. It is likely one of the reasons many are now discouraged about the place America seems to be, especially with the recent, last launch of the space shuttle and apparent dissemination of NASA.

There is much from a historical perspective to like about both DVD’s. As I have gotten older I have learned to appreciate history, and the history presented here is not only educational, it reminds me of a time I lived, and the lack of truth in some of the things I was taught. There are reasons many have developed a focus on self as opposed to the collective spirit of a people, and nation. It is likely, in part, the intent to satisfy self, withholding truth, and presenting a history that excludes people we don’t like or understand that is a part of the reasoning we as a nation have the focus on self we do.

I can’t help but be reminded of the mighty things that can be accomplished by people coming together. For example, in only recent history have we started to explore the possibility of gays in the military, but, we forget, many historians credit a gay man with turning the troops around to win the Revolutionary War. These programs cause me to question, are we really inclusive as a nation, and have we so quickly forgotten what it was that inspired some to try and destroy our nation on September 11, 2001? That is the power of programming like this, especially when done in a thought provoking way. We are forced to think beyond ourselves.

The fear of forgetting our past not only transcends in nationalism, but also on the same type of thing from a faith perspective. For those of us who have had faith experiences that changed our lives, do we get so caught up in ourselves that we forget about the people we once were, our history, and the truths of our past? Many will say no, while at the same time, ignoring those around them who have walked in the same shoes we have, thankfully, some will remember and see the similarities and be challenged to help others. They will come together as opposed to isolating in their spiritual walk.

I appreciated these two documentaries, and while they are worth owning, I can’t highly recommend them as they are simply presentations of the television show, without commercials, but with nothing beyond what was on television. I would have liked some special features but unfortunately got none. I would have preferred more than a rehashing of the television shows, but unfortunately that was all I got. While these DVD’s are of benefit to those who didn’t see the program, it provides little to those who did see them or perhaps taped it for their own usage. There are educational benefits for the classroom if used there, but their use will challenge what some have been taught from a revisionist perspective of history.

What is of use beyond this is the search for truth within our own lives and practices. Not only from a historical perspective related to nationalism, but from a perspective related to our individualism. So much of history mirrors our experiences and in some ways, shapes our personalities. An understanding of the history and times some of us grew up in can help us have a better understanding of ourselves. I have learned to appreciate that, unfortunately, I think some are so into themselves that they will care less about truth and what shaped them and our country. I could be wrong though, and on that point, I hope I am.

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