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Perfect for Memorial Day -- 'TED Talks: War & Peace'
May 30, 2016  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments

Our attention to Memorial Day gets spottier as more of our wars fall into grey areas, and PBS reflects that unease with TED Talks: War & Peace, an hour of short monologues and features that airs at 9 p.m. ET Monday. (check local listings)

Hosted by comedian Baratunde Thurston (top), TED Talks approaches its subject through the side door.

It’s not specifically about either war or peace. It’s about the impact of mankind’s seemingly unending need to fight among ourselves.

Adam Driver (left), the actor best known for his role in HBO’s Girls and Star Wars – Episode VII, talks about founding a theater program that helps returning veterans deal with the transition back to civilian life.

The most compelling part of his monologue deals with his own experience in the military. He’s a Marine who suffered an injury that ruled him out for combat, and he talks movingly about how he had bonded with the Corps and then felt empty when he couldn’t join his fellow Marines in their deployment.

On the other side of the war/peace coin, activist Jamila Raqib talks about underreported non-violence movements around the world.

She cites a village where ISIS seized control and decreed that the schools would henceforth teach only strict fundamentalism. On the first day of classes, no students showed up.

Sebastian Junger, a veteran war journalist who has talked about his own struggle with PTSD after covering so much combat and conflict, poses a different theory about why PTSD has increased among veterans of recent wars.

The issue isn’t that wars are becoming more psychologically dangerous, he says, because that’s been true of every war.

Rather, he suggests, PTSD has become an increasing problem because of what the veterans find when they return home. Instead of a relatively united and supportive country, they find anger and dissension.

If we could somehow address that, Junger suggests, the incidence of PTSD would very likely drop.

All these are profound issues that could easily lend themselves to full exploration on their own. Bundling them together for this presentation, which was taped at Town Hall in New York, makes them feel connected in ways that are both logical and sometimes uncomfortable.

By far the most uncomfortable segment is the final few minutes when Christianne Boudreau (left) talks about her son’s death in battle – after he left his native Canada to fight for ISIS.

Boudreau belongs to a group called Mothers for Life, whose members all had children who joined radical jihadist groups.

This might make them seem like outliers in our familiar image of bereaved parents, but Boudreau makes the pain feel precisely the same. She will never see her son again. Because war does that.

TED Talks isn’t an easy or a traditional Memorial Day hour. It’s very different than, for instance, the annual Memorial Day concert that PBS airs on Sunday night.

It’s a good companion piece, however, to “Of Men and War,” a POV special that focuses on PTSD and follows Monday at 10 p.m. ET (check local listings).

Neither show is a picnic. But then, that’s not all that Memorial Day was conceived to be.

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Ama Carey-Barr
Bowled over by these POWER-FULL TED talks. Thank you PBS.
May 31, 2016   |  Reply
Outstanding show. Could you list the names of ALL the speakers. The blond woman who spoke about the number of guns was impressive. I'd like to follow up on some of these.
May 31, 2016   |  Reply
Linda Donovan
The speakers were Adam Driver, Sebastian Junger, Jamila Raqib, Christianne Boudreau, and Samantha Nutt who I think is the woman about whom you're interested in learning more.
May 31, 2016
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