Monday, January 03, 2011

The Vicksburg Dead—Jens Rushing

When I first saw the (seminal, superlative) HBO series Deadwood, I was deeply moved by a scene where the doctor begs with a silent god to make sense of the suffering that he witnessed during the Civil War. The writing, the acting came together for a moment Vicksburg Dead of artistic perfection, and I wanted to know what the character had seen to reduce him to his current state of despair. In general I am interested by the changes that traumatic events can wreak on humans (survivor's guilt, PTSD, et al) and that, with the episode of Deadwood, led me to consider a Civil War story. The story of Vicksburg is an amazing one - the lengths to which the besieged went for survival, for one, and the - ah - I was impressed by the clemency shown by the victors in this struggle (though, of course, it was shown for numerous political and logistical reasons, more so than humane ones) and consider it a victory of the human spirit that this particular violent struggle, in the midst of such a bitter war, ended with so many lives saved when so many could have been destroyed. I have always despised the idea of a "glorious battle" or a "good death," the idea that war is anything other than a tragic, senseless waste of human individuals, and thus I wanted to write something celebrating humanity in the face of the full horror of war.

--Jens Rushing

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