I know some re-enactors who salivate at the thought of restricted events. I will go so far as to say that I have attended several such events and have tried to keep pictures period-authentic when there were spectators. I had a wonderful time at restricted events. The fact that I had a wonderful time, however, means nothing. I had a wonderful time living in a tent two miles from Balikasher, Turkey. I have a better time when I am simultaneously living in yesterday and touching tomorrow.
Like good teachers, re-enactors can profoundly affect young people. We can (and do) demonstrate a lifestyle that their video games and mall experiences cannot touch. The smart alecky sixth grader I knew from a middle school was in absolute awe of the re-enactors at the 2006 Battle of Blue Licks event. He asked more questions and displayed more curiosity than I had ever seen him display in a classroom at Bryan Station Middle School. He wasn’t worried about appearing “cool” or disinterested. His interest shined like a lighthouse beacon in the darkest night and he was amazed that the basis of our knowledge was books.
We re-enactors have had a mission thrust upon us. In a world when many educators and politicians use the shield of political correctness to protect them from reality, we are historically correct. I will emphasize that most of us are historically correct and proud of it. We, and our interaction with spectators, may be the deciding factor in bringing an interest in history to a young person.
This occurred in one of my classes while I was student teaching in May, 1999. The subject was world civilization and the topic was the American Revolution. I took my Continental Army uniform and several accoutrements to the classroom. After the students examined the items, a young man asked to wear the coat. I let him wear the coat and began the lesson. His hand was constantly in the air when I asked questions. This C student began making A’s in world civilization.
At re-enactments, we are a strong opposition to the segment of education and society that is attempting to eradicate history and tradition from American life and American education ------ and we have our work cut out for us. The Berea community school system stopped having Christmas Parties and began having holiday parties several years ago. I was informed by the principal that Christmas is not compatible with cultural diversity.
The diluting of American history in the school setting is meant to spread diversity and adhere to political correctness rather than to teach history to tradition and celebrate our democracy. Anyone who thinks that I am exaggerating need only look to the Enola Gay exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum. Before Veterans’ groups became involved, the exhibit was anti-American. It focused on the theory that the United States started the war with Japan and unnecessarily used atomic weapons on Japan. When public pressure changed the exhibit, the history PhD assembling the original exhibit stated that the change did not matter because he, and those who think like him, were writing the textbooks and the standardized tests.
Another motivation re-enactors have for leaving spectators smiling is that many of our re-enactments are supported by the state and if no spectators come, the state has no reason to continue support. I have been to re-enactments that have state support and many that didn’t. Re-enactments with state support are more affordable.
Ways that we re-enactors can counter this influence are:
- Bring extra hats and accoutrements to events and allow young people to wear or hold them while having their picture taken.
- Pose with spectators ---- If someone is taking your picture, ask them to join you or your group and have someone else take the picture with them in the picture.
- Answer questions
- Take a little time to meet them. This doesn’t have to be anything formal or time consuming. I like to walk down the line of spectators before an event starts. This gives them a chance to take pictures and ask questions.
- Listen as the spectators reveal they are the direct descendant of Pocahontas. Rather than contradict them, suggest they might like to read a biography (which will show she died childless).