Watched America The Story of Us, segment 2 last night. The plot thickens. Last week it ended when the colonies declared victory over and independence from Britain. This week, we’re on our own—not faring so well, but persevering nonetheless.
The episode starts off with the trek West, two thousand miles in covered wagons and on foot. Yeowch. I don’t even like DRIVING two hundred miles. Here’s a bunch of people traveling right through the middle of it all–harsh weather, pissed off Native Americans (who frankly, had every right to be), disease, scarcity of food and water, and unbelievable distance when you’re moving at 10 miles A DAY!…you name it.
We quickly get to the Donner party. You know the story–I knew the story, but seeing it reenacted on television was a whole other ball of wax. I actually thought I was going to vomit. Five months these people, who thought they were taking a shortcut that would take miles off the trip (and beyond tragically actually added a hundred miles to it!), hit trouble. The axle breaks on their wagon, and before they can get it fixed, a snowstorm hits. They are stuck there with no food–well, they had some food. It lasted 3 weeks. Then…well. They ate the dead. Yeah. Still get a little queasy thinking about that. They renamed the route "Donner Pass" afterwards. (Then, the Lincoln Highway.)
There was a lot more to the show than that, both astounding and horrifying. Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad…awesome. Slave trading and the reality of all that–I’m 46 years old, so yeah, I know it was terrible. My kid is 11–she was horrified. Learning "about" it in elementary school and then seeing something a lot more to the point on television–yeah. Big difference. All I could tell her was, "Honey, America is a wonderful place, but we haven’t always done wonderful things. Sometimes we just suck." Finding out that the north was profiting from the slave trade also helped her to understand one thing–we’ve all made bad mistakes. Really bad mistakes. The only thing a person can do is make it right.
At least I hope that’s what she learned. I’ll admit I was still stuck back on that frozen mountain through most of the first hour. Ick ick ick!
Meanwhile, we see everything leading up to the start of the Civil War. That part of history should begin the next segment, and I can’t wait! If you haven’t been watching it, why not???