Wednesday, October 13, 2010
HAPPY 235 NAVY! and a few other comments
On 13 October 1775 the Continental Congress passed a bill authorizing the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America. The legislation also established a Naval Committee to supervise the work. This was the first step toward creation of a national naval force, that through various reiterations has become the US Navy of today.
On a totally unrelated topic and as a complete and total rant, I want to point out the recent political candidates - and there are several - being heckled for reenacting.
I am not going to stand up for these folks, but neither will I add to the barrage. It bears pointing out that the general public is coming out to say they find most historical reenactments silly and inane. That's nothing new. The idea takes a lot of getting used to and most younger people I know who do reenact won't talk to their other friends about it. It's a source of embarrassment, ridicule and criticism. Is this fair? Why or why not? Politically charged race and religious issues aside, there are other factors here, less easy to examine. Why are reenactors so easy to criticize?
The concept, when viewed from the outside, is highly suspect. Line up "opposing forces" across a field, then shoot blanks at each other and pretend to fall down to simulate death. A historical event that caused so much pain and suffering is romanticized in melodrama for the "education of the public". Then the participants get up, brush off and head back to their camps to lounge around and talk about how cool it was, while the public generally tries to figure out exactly what it was that they just saw.
The same concept, as viewed from the reenactors' perspective, is quite different. In the interest of preserving history, educating the public and building their own understanding of historical people and events, they invest piles of time and money to produce an impression that allows them to transform in one way or another into a living representation of their subject. The fights demonstrate period tactics and maneuvers and allow the public insight - in living color - into the events that transpired and helped shape the nation, other nations and the world. Generally speaking, unpleasantness is kept to a minimum, in the interest of keeping things appropriate for families. And the events add a further layer of interest in that each one is a meeting, where like-minded folks can gather together to discuss their hard work in the recent interim and enjoy each other's company.
So... two sides of the same coin. But unfortunately, there's a rub. The repulsive view of the coin is on the face - the obverse is a bit concealed in the modern social atmosphere. This causes many people to not want to get involved, limit their involvement or keep their involvement quiet. And the coin is relatively flat - it is difficult to see and understand both sides simultaneously. That is to say, the farther afield you go to see your side, the less and less you see the other.
We have a great saying in the Navy, that perception is reality. This is clearly the culprit here.
I would like to think that I live on the edge of the coin, but I think I'm straying back more and more toward that ugly face view of it lately. For instance, I just can't see the merits of battle reenactments anymore - for many reasons. Of course, I will continue to support the direction dictated by the NHS Board of Directors - so if they say go shoot and fall down, that I will do. But the overall direction of NHS in general is shifting farther and farther away from the back of the coin, partially in search of recruits, partially for fundraising, partially because it was getting boring - and moving toward something easier for most people to understand, get on board with, and support. We saw this in the past year where for every event in costumes we had three without. 2011 will be even farther afield from reenacting - mark my words.
I just noticed last night that the webmaster thinks he can turn my blog background pink as some sort of compensation for the errors in the NHS website. Shouldn't you be fixing the uneven text size and really bulky HTML code instead of messing around with my background? Just saying.