When 1 + 1 = 3: Ken Burns on Story

A fascinating short film (in the Burns style) on what the documentarian thinks makes a good story

Sez Burns:     

Abraham Lincoln wins the Civil War and then he decides he's got enough time to go to the theatre. That's a good story. When Thomas Jefferson said "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal", he owned a hundred human beings and never saw the hypocrisy, never saw the contradiction, and more importantly never saw fit in his lifetime to free any one of them. That's a good story.

From Kottke.

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  1. Steve Bloom

    A hypocrite, yes, but a somewhat self-aware one:

    “The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it…The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to his worst passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances … if a slave can have a country in this world, it must be any other in preference to that in which he is to be born to live and labor for another… or entail his own miserable condition on the endless generations proceeding from him … Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

    Pretty famous quote, too. So what’s up with Burns? I hope it’s not just that being able to assert “never saw the hypocrisy, never saw the contradiction” improves the flavor of the story.

    May 22, 2012 Reply

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