Is reenacting during wartime in bad taste?
by Jonah Begone
I have long maintained that there are only two things that could slow or halt the growth of THE HOBBY: 1) continual major safety problems resulting in a perception of reenacting as being dangerous to life and limb (resulting in Federal legislation banning handguns, assault rifles and living history), and 2) a real shooting war with real American casualties. We are now seeing option #2. So, to be self-absorbed, what will happen to reenacting?
Perhaps there will be fewer hordes of spectators at events. (Why would anyone want to spend a sunny weekend watching play war when they can watch the real thing on CNN?) This would signal the (temporary) end of the so-called "Mega event," and a return to reenacting by, for and in behalf of reenactors. In my view, the resultant lack of crowds would be a good thing. Also, as younger men - worried about missing a good "event" - start enlisting the reenacting armies become even more populated by the thirtysomethings and fortysomethings that constitute its most enthusiastic followers (many, I predict, justifying their activity by claiming that they reenact as a "show of support for the troops," however bizarre the logic behind this is).
The media is very sensitive when it comes to advertising. Ads with warlike themes will be pulled, ads with patriotic themes will appear in abundance. While nobody ever accused the average reenactor of being over-sensitive, I would hope that one effect of a war upon living history activities might be that the writhing in agony vignettes and the ghastly surgical operation demonstrations would become passe. But then, I could be wrong - as someone said nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
To answer the question: is reenacting during wartime in bad taste?, my answer would have to be "probably," but I'm going to be out there anyway. Reenacting, when stripped the heavy quasi-military demands and activities that we attempt to give it in the name of authenticity, is still recreational and fun no matter how it appears to non-reenactors. And we didn't cancel the Super Bowl, (the other all-American institution), did we? So, unless there's another Viet Nam-era National Angst that renders militarism completely unacceptable, I'll see you out in the field. And, like you, I also hope to see our troops back home and Saddam Hussein and Manny Noriega sharing adjacent jail cells...