A recent episode of PBS’s American Experience explored how the massive number of deaths in the Civil War sent the nation into shock. The catastrophe—750,000 dead—was equivalent to the U.S. suffering 7 million deaths today. Besides evoking this ghastly experience, Ric Burns’s film Death and the Civil War (reviewed here in the New York Times), which is based on Drew Gilpin’s book The Republic of Suffering, offers a fascinating perspective on current political debates over the size and scope of the federal government.
The disappearance of well-paying manufacturing jobs in the U.S. has decimated the middle class. It has also put stress on gender roles—especially in the South, where there’s a strong presumption, backed by evangelical Christian teaching, that being a man means providing financially for your family.