Writing has become a lost art

It’s been said that writing no longer is a primary form of communication, that it has become a victim of the Internet Age. Letters have been supplanted by emails, text messages and Twitter posts — many of which are written in some kind of shorthand to conform to strict limits on allowed characters.

American Experience, the acclaimed PBS documentary series, will show us once again how writing used to be done with eloquence, passion … and how it reveals the soul of those who face untold danger in the heat of mortal combat.

“War Letters” will be broadcast on Panhandle PBS at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Look at it online as well.


Letters from American warriors fighting in wars dating from the American Revolution to the Persian Gulf War are highlighted on the WGBH-TV-produced documentary. They offer a glimpse into the hearts and souls of warriors fighting for their lives in harm’s way.

They perhaps also offer a look back into what some folks have said has become a lost art.


I’d like to offer a brief point of personal privilege here.

My wife and I once took a tour of the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Not the one in Washington, D.C., although we’ve seen that, too, but the one in Angel Fire, N.M. It overlooks a beautiful valley in the heart of New Mexico’s ski resort region.

It was erected by the father of a soldier who died in combat during the Vietnam War.

Its hallmark are displays of letters written by young men to their loved ones back home. They are powerful in what they reveal about the fears of those young men.

My wife and I toured the exhibit and went outside. Through her tears, my wife said that “every politician who has the power to send people to war should come here first before they make that decision.”

Therein lies the power of the written word.


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