I saw this documentary a few days ago using the App for the PBS Passport streaming service on my Roku device. Depending on where you live, you might be able to stream this on to your computer from their website for free.
What many people already know about this subject is that Agent Orange was employed by Americans during the Vietnam war as a weapon of mass destruction. Perhaps the only worse weapon that has been used during war in the earth’s history for the purposes of mass destruction is the nuclear bomb. (One has to admit that the Germans and the Allies did also do a very effective job of mass destruction with their bombing campaigns of London and Dresden during WWII.) In all of these efforts, people did not care who was killed, soldiers or civilians, adults or children.
The use of Agent Orange is quite possibly the worst ever case of the use of chemical warfare on our planet since the use of poison gas during World War I. We efficiently destroyed both the land and the people of the country. They are suffering even today. We also poisoned our own soldiers, even though the people in charge knew what the chemical could do to them. (The Veterans are still fighting for government support and acceptance of responsibility in this regard.) It was quite a shameful episode from history.
What I did not know was what happened in the USA after the Vietnam war with regards to Agent Orange, with the continued use of the chemicals as a herbicide, and the many lives that were destroyed because of this. The air and the drinking water sources for many people living near the forests where the chemicals were being used – the forests that were being cleared by the big logging companies – were being polluted by chemicals that have the ability to damage and destroy the genetic make-up of people, causing illness and disease not only in the people exposed to the poison, but also in their offspring. It appears that the people and organizations responsible for all of this are still escaping their full responsibilities. This includes even the federal government. The facts about the impact of this chemical are still being covered up – even to this day! The documentary indicates that evidence has even been destroyed along the way. It is a very, very, shady story. This is an American Horror story!
This great ten-part series is highly recommended for anybody interested in history and not that familiar with the details of WWII. (As an aside, the show’s impact had little to do with addition of color to the footage.) The series focuses on certain key events and elements of WWII. The stories are clearly told, and in what I thought was a balanced manner. You learn about the lead up to the particular events, the battlefield strategies employed therein, about how the event played out in reality, the end results, and, finally, the overall impact of the event on the direction of WWII itself, and on history. I learnt a lot of new things.
I emerged from the experience of viewing these episodes convinced that very, very, few people are really completely “good”, or noble. Evil lurks in the human heart, perhaps closer to the surface in some more than in others. All it takes is the right set of circumstances to bring out the worst in a person. Some of us, even if we are not active participants, become complicit just from our capability to justify harsh cruelty done to others in our name, for what is claimed to be the greater good.
The last two episodes of this series were the most impactful on me. They had to do with the genocide in the concentration camps in Europe, and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With the genocide, the killing of human beings became an effort of industrial scale, with the goal of speeding up the process of systematically murdering people. The goal was to find the most efficient way to do this. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki attempted to legitimize the process of mass murder on an even grander scale. It was, in a sense, a response to an already brutal war with a even greater level of brutality. There appears to be no limit to which we can push each other in this regard.
There were many atrocities committed in WWII. The conventional bombing of cities on a large scale, in a deliberate attempt to massacre civilians in large numbers and achieve a psychological advantage in the conflict, was something that both sides were guilty of. The fire-bombing of Dresden was particularly horrific.
And it is not as if we remember the horrors of previous wars and strive not to repeat them. We will never learn that war is hell.
We spent a couple of hours (literally speaking) in downtown Huntsville, AL. I think that is sufficient time to see this particular area of town and get a good feel for it. The downtown area is small. The place reminds me of other small places with downtown areas that are recovering from hard times. The buildings are old, and perhaps historical. The central area in Huntsville is dominated by the Madison County Courthouse, a building whose design leads me to believe that it was probably a product of the 1970s, a time when public buildings seem to have been designed to be primarily utilitarian and functional, and not very noteworthy from an artistic perspective when seen from the outside. The buildings around the courthouse in Huntsville house small mom and pop boutique stores and restaurants, and lawyers’ offices. Old people lounge around in the benches watching the tourists. Young people with laid-back attitudes serve you in the restaurant whose outdoor tables are painted in psychedelic colors. I have seen this kind of a scene in other small towns with rundown downtown areas. Perhaps these young people with their seemingly simple lives and a straightforward attitude will bring a rebirth to these towns.
The Harrison Brothers Hardware Store lies to the south of the courthouse.It is a historical facility that still functions as a store today, and in some sections of the store you can see shelves and tables stacked up the way they used to be in past times. But the thing that got me was the historical cash register which is still being used! The metal work on this piece of hardware is something to be seen from close up.The only other thing I will mention here about Huntsville is the statue outside the courthouse. It is a memorial to the civil war, and it is a memorial to the confederates, the side that lost the war.Statues like this started coming up all over the south in the early 1900s, well after the civil war was over. From what I understand, they were built primarily by a group called the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Unfortunately, these statues have now become an uncomfortable reminder of our still ongoing issues with race, one of the major issues of this country that the civil war sought to address. Statues of confederate leaders are being torn down from many public places today, mostly in the north, because they are symbolic of our ongoing societal problems. It will probably be a while before such a movement takes hold in the southern swathe of this nation.
Huntsville is also called The Rocket City, and it is the place where the American space program got its beginning. If you are visiting the city and have time to spare, there are things to be seen in this regard. We did not have the time.
By sheer coincidence, we happened to visit a few historical locations last week that are associated in one way or the other with the American Civil War. The practice of observing a Memorial Day in the United States came into being as a formal way to remember the people who had lost their lives in this war.
The first place we visited during our travels last week was Gettysburg, the location of the civil war battle where about 51,000 lives were lost in a single encounter over three days of fighting. The battle marked the turning of the Civil War, when The Union finally began to push back The Confederacy. It was also the place where Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address. The first picture below is from a section of the famous Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama. The cyclorama can be seen at the visitor center in Gettysburg.The next place we visited was Harper’s Ferry, the location where John Brown, the abolitionist, raided the local armory and helped to ignite a process that eventually led to the civil war. Being at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, the town played an important role during the civil war itself.The last place we visited were the fields of Antietam where the bloodiest single day battle of the civil war was fought. About 23,000 people lost their lives in about 12 hours.These days Memorial Day serves as the day to remember all the men and women who have given up their lives to serve the country in various wars and battles, but mostly it seems to be a day for people to consider the beginning of the summer season. Barbecues are fired up for the first time, swimming pools are open, and yes, there are good sales in the stores.
Sadly, we have still not learnt our lessons about wars in general.