Surviving the Dust Bowl

Survivingthe Dust Bowl

Moviesand films, like other literary works are primarily used for educationand entertainment purposes. The contemporary human society has seen aproliferation of numerous types of movies films, one of which isdocumentary. As much as documentaries are also used for entertainmentand educational purposes, their primary aim is to offer some factualinformation pertaining to a particular event or aspects in thesociety. Of course, they also aim at triggering a change in themanner of doing things in the society through highlighting the areaswhere human beings made a mistake or acted in an inappropriatemanner. Indeed, documentaries send a message that goes beyond theirchronicling of the events. This is the case for the documentary“Survivingthe Dust: Bowl”.In 1931, the black blizzards started after the rains stopped. Immensedust storms that were carrying millions of blinding and stingingblack dirt swept in the Southern Plains, which included westernKansas, panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas, as well as the easternparts of New Mexico and Colorado. Top soil, which had taken thousandsof years an inch to build was suddenly blowing away in minutes. Thisis what was referred to as the “Dust Bowl”. In essence, theAmerican experience film “” offers aremarkable story that details the lives of determined individuals whoclung to their ways of lives and their homes, tolerating disease,dust and drought and even death for close to a decade. The film makesuse of familiar ingredients of documentaries including anintroduction by a trusted commentator, David McCullough, periodposters, movie clips and still pictures, as well as interviews withvaried surviving participants and historians. The incorporation ofsurvivors’ accounts is aimed at correcting some of the fallaciesthat were made in the film and popular literary image of the eventinn earlier films, which primarily narrated relocation and escape.Indeed, quite a number of literary works such as movies and songs hadbeen made underlining the notion that people moved from their areas.Individuals who remained behind underwent years of economicdestruction, loss of animals, churches, schools and banks or evenentire towns, as well as hunger. There existed numerous deaths offamily members who showed signs of pneumonia, as well as thesaddening vision of parents lamenting in extreme anxiety about theirwretchedness in the unceasing dust that was filling their yards andhouses, as well as mounding up in dunes on the fence rows. Thesurvivors’ voices are a reflection of the unique regional languagepatterns that also vividly bring to mind their times of fear, as wellas hope in the course of a calamity. Of particular note is the factthat the film does not entirely revolve around grief rather it alsooffers a glimpse of the varied programs of the government that wereaimed at providing some economic relief to the destitute familiesincluding commodity price supports and food supplements.

Asmuch as the film details the events that occurred during the DustBowl, it is really about the spirit of human resilience in the faceof calamity. Of particular note is the fact that families weresurviving on milk, beans and cornbread, and had started giving up onhope, which triggered a mass exodus or migration from the plains.However, the film is primarily the story of the individuals whostayed back in spite of the immense or insurmountable challenges. Oneof the most distinctive lessons revolves around the role that thegovernment plays in alleviating the suffering of its subjects. It isnoted that government offered quite a number of programs aimed athelping the survivors to get back on their feet. These programs hadimmense impact on the people’s lives. Indeed, scholars have alwaysnoted that a steady stream of legislations were passed in an effortto reduce unemployment, relieve poverty and speed up economicrecovery. As much as these programs may not have brought thedepression to an end, they assisted the American people in animmeasurable manner by catering for their basic needs. On the samenote, one would need to examine the real reasons why the catastropheoccurred and particularly in those plains. It is worth noting thatthe dust was concentrated on those plains simply as a result of theimproper farming techniques that individuals had adopted. Indeed, itis evident that a catastrophe of such a magnitude would have beenprevented by simply applying farming techniques that did not overlyloosen the soil. Indeed, soil conservation experts later stated thatit was imperative that soil conservation techniques be implemented soas to avert the possibility of such a calamity in the future. As muchas the movie offers a clear picture of the situation as it was atthat time, it does not offer an explanation on whether the governmentprograms succeeded in the long-term or even whether there wassomething that could have been done immediately after the calamityset in.


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