Filmmaker Ken Burns says America has experienced three "great crises" in its history — the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II, and might currently be going through its fourth, which he says might also be the worst yet.
"We're beset by three viruses, are we not?" Burns told NPR's "Morning Edition." There is "a year-old COVID-19 virus, but also a 402-year-old virus of white supremacy, of racial injustice. . . . And we've got an age-old human virus of misinformation, of paranoia, of conspiracies," he said.
Burns, writing in Politico, said he is repeatedly asked whether he will make a film about the current point in time.
"The answer is no — or at least not now," he says, explaining his films are about history and not enough time has passed yet.
But he said he sees optimism from looking at America's past.
"The Civil War didn't solve a lot of things, but it changed the nature of who we were before the United States," Burns told NPR. "We said the United States are — plural, grammatically correct. And, after the war, we say, as we do today, and ungrammatically, the United States is. In some way, the war, with all of its passions, with all of its death and destruction, with all of its unresolved work, it made us an is."
The country is beginning to have a racial reckoning, he added.
"More people voted than ever before," he said. "Poll workers defied the coronavirus, voters defied the coronavirus and held the safest and most accurate vote in our history. Courts upheld every challenge to that.
"We have a woman as a vice president — we have a woman of color as a vice president — this is a time not for rejoicing, but to remember that in order to gather strength to deal with these dark moments, we have to actually remember to let in the light that is right in front of us."
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