Monday, March 7, 2011

The Challenge of Balance in Reenacting

The follow post from Fred London is another perspective on balancing being accurate with being inviting to new people:

Glenn, Last week, I posted the following opinion on a well-visited Civil War forum in response to extremes in authenticity.  It is along the lines of your post concerning your family's introduction into reenacting.  I wanted to post it as a comment to your last post was unable to do so. [Fred, I have no idea how posting works, but have set it up as open as far as I know. Glenn]

     I am not, what is referred to as an "authentic campaigner" by any means. But, even so, there are a few things, that even for me, cross the line of what should be acceptable, especially for those who have a couple of reenactments under their belts and should know better. Most of this laxness is attributal to the veterans who permit it to occur without diplomatically pointing it out to the "fresh fish." Just last week, I was at a reenactment, where they turned the battle into essentially a sporting event/theatrical presentation---play by play announcing, directing pep rally type cheers, and annoying background music.
     Frankly, I was embarrassed. I believe it sent the wrong message to the spectators, and more importantly, contributed little to honoring the brave men who fought and sacrificed for a cause they believed in. It trivialized the very reason we were there, and therefore, did a disservice to all parties concerned.
     But, I fear that some of us, in our zeal to be 100%, if that is even practically possible, may be taking an unintended self-defeating approach to reenacting. As I was reading the long lists of farberism, I began to think of the 613 ordiances in the Mosaic Law, which no man could perfectly keep, which is why a blood atonement was required for the remission of sins. I fear that in our well-intnetioned zeal to "get it right", which in and of itself is a good thing, we may be in danger of "destroying the town in order to save it."
     Knowledge and judgment are not necessarily the same things. When it comes to pure knowledge of the techncial aspects of the Civil War, the wealth of information that many of you exhibit is quite impressive to say the least. I have benefited much by it. But, at times, I question the judgment, or application of such knowledge, when I see it used to intimidate, though unintended, rather than to patiently educate, along with a certain amount of moderation.
     Of course, what is deemed moderate to some, amd be too legalistic or too liberal to others. That will differ from unit to unit and is an important factor in determing whether a prospective recruit is a good fit or not. In that regard, the burden of adaptation is upon the individual, and not the other way around. But, sometimes I get the impression that these hardcore reenactors are more concerned with impressing each other rather than making a prospective recruit feel welcome and educating the public. That is simply my opinion based upon observation, but do not presume it to be a fact.
     I do agree with many of your points, and many of things that "drive you up the wall" have the same effect on me. But, I believe that if we are too legalistic in our approach to this endeavor, the reenactment community as a whole will find itself part of a continuing shrinking number of participants---a small, introverted, and exclusive club of elitists---a painful and slow death to an honorable hobby.
     Fred London 

Glenn's Editorial comments:  I think there will always be a tension between "wanting to do it well" and being "open to new people".  I am very grateful that in my family's early days of reenacting, we had a unit that was graciously helpful.  They came along side us and made suggestions, gave input, and realized that we were open to learning and adapting . . . as the budget allowed.  Be willing to give honest and good advice.  Live by your standards.  And allow for some diversity.

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