Take Another Look at Oliver Stone's "Untold History of the United States"
By John Kays
Oliver Stone's new series on Showtime, the Untold History of the United States, is working grandly for me. I've spent a lifetime studying American History, and viewing Oliver Stone's take challenges much of what I've learned, and propels me backward to reexamine many of these important topics. I've viewed Part I three times and Part II just once. Each segment is one hour long, but oh boy, one minute of footage is chalk full of hundreds of photographs, film clips, and Stone's descriptive narrative of how the events break to alter the course of history!
I don't know whether most of us will have enough time to dissect his U.S. History (from WWII up to the present) down to every organ, but once we realize how important this is, to try and get it right (once and for all), we may feel motivated to enter the Forbidden Zone, going pass the 'Iron Curtain' of historical interpretation, scratch our heads a few more times, sigh or grown a bit, then finally achieve reconciliation. The Soviet Union largely won WWII by taking on the Nazi war machine! Well, the stats are behind this not too off the cuffs claim.
Alright, so I knew that was true before, but it was so engrained in me, from my studies as a student in the 1960s, that it was mainly the efforts of the U.S. that broke the back of Hitler and ultimately liberated Europe. Crosscurrents of historical interpretation, which some might mistake as a propaganda machine, redirect our minds-eye to view the past through highly tinted lenses. This, I believe, is what happened to Oliver Stone; but his experience in Vietnam opened up his eyes. It forced him to look back at the events of his life from a different perspective.
Suffering can lead to wisdom, so this may be what's behind these revelations. It's still shocking how rapidly and efficiently (and cunningly) Adolf Hitler conquered Europe. Also, another observation (or emphasis, rather) of Mr. Stone's (which is right on the mark) is that a majority of Americans were Isolationists, while Hitler played with Europe like it was his little toy of a Rubik Cube. Roosevelt had to connive to get the U.S. into the War. Not to morph to conspiracy theories, but this is largely true. The Lend Lease Act was a bridge to American involvement.
The latter quarter of Part One zeroes in on how the Russians finally broke the German choke hold on the Soviet Union. The Battle of Stalingrad was the most important event of WWII; this is a hard pill for we Americans to swallow. History repeats itself - Napoleon got bogged down in the terribly fierce Russian winter. And now the same thing occurred with the crack Nazi divisions. The Germans were after the precious oilfields of the Caucasus, and especially those at Baku. Through Russian valor (or was it fear and intimidation?), the line was held at Stalingrad in February of 1943.
There were nearly 2 million Axis and Soviet casualties at the Battle of Stalingrad! This staggering figure alone may help you to want to take a closer look at what was behind this victory. So it is with many of the topics (or people) covered in this welcome new series, the Untold History of the United States. This morning I latched on to the iconic Norman Rockwell painting, which depicts a generic American Thanksgiving feast (image flashed in conjunction with the Atlantic Charter, oddly enough).
When I was growing up, I'd look at this image and want my family's celebration dinner to replicate what I was seeing. What I didn't realize, was this is Myth Making! So it is with how we learned our history versus how it really went down. I'll be paying close attention (and I hope you will too), Mr. Stone, as new parts are presented each Monday on Showtime at 8:00 PM.
John Kays identifies timeless remnants from our past that will endure, or be admired by future generations. Read more stories by John Kays.
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