Ego-Stroking and Romanticizing the Past

“Apparently he leads his men through steep gorges in their period clothes and shoes, yelling at them to keep up.” This immediately reminded me of my German archaeologist friend who creates authentic replicas of Anglo-Saxon and Viking clothing and accoutrements and forced two of his friends to camp in the Highlands with only the replica gear. Archaeologists are crazy.

I had no idea that some of the first reenactments were done by veterans of the battles they reenacted. “Psychologically, those re-enactments must have been a way of keeping past traumas real and under control; a means of talking about tough experiences with people who’ve been through the same. But I’ve never understood why anyone would re-enact a war in which they’ve never fought.” (Nick Kowalczyk). I wonder about the importance of intervening time between re-enactments and the actual events. For example, the Vietnam War, how soon is too soon for those not involved with the actual event to recreate it? Is there a ‘correct’ time or should it matter? I have been perplexed by battlefield re-enactors my whole life. I cannot decide if the act can be considered ‘appropriate’ commemoration, or simply more a way for people to try to lose themselves in another time period.

(For goodness sake, if one more of these readings mentions Starbucks I think I might cry.)

Ann M. Little’s point, “Romaticizing the past, like re-enacting, is a White thing,” is spot on. Her discussion of the “blinkered and segregated” history re-enactments often tell made me realize that it is not the actual act of re-enactment that I dislike, but the stories on which they focus. Not just the death and battle aspect, but the fact that they are the stories of the victors and the defeated, the oppressor and the oppressed. “Are there women’s groups who regularly dress up in hundred-year old clothing styles and re-enact the violent climax of the suffrage movement?  Personally, I would turn out as a spectator for these events–and I might even be persuaded to get into costume and participate myself–but who will play the thugs with the torches, guns, clubs, firehoses, chains, and gavage equipment?  Will middle-aged white men be persuaded to cede the heroic roles to other reenactors?” I love these questions. Let’s change our group project and see if we can get some answers.

The article on the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ National Heritage Rally was good, but not startling or groundbreaking. Of course the SCV needs to recognize the glaringly obvious faults in the Confederacy’s argument, while still acknowledging the courage of the average soldier. This should not be news. However, the conclusion bothered me. Why does the author think that, “[m]aking the Civil War relevant today is a formidable task, given how much our technology and values keep us focused on the triviality of the present.”? It shouldn’t be difficult considering modern events still easily tie into the history of the Civil War and slavery. Is he really just afraid to say that word?

The statement that Sue Gardner’s issue are “the traditions of the computer world and an obsessive fact-loving realm that is dominated by men and, some say, uncomfortable for women” is an interesting one. The first part about the computer world is probably true. After reading the other two articles on Wikipedia, I wonder if “fact-loving” is really the best way to phrase the Wiki world, or would “stick-measuring” or “ego-stroking” be more accurate? Aside from the fact that secondary sources are valued more highly simply for verification purposes, the whole process of editing a Wiki page sounds rather more hostile than the community-based forum it is portrayed to be in common use. “By offering our scholarly findings to the Wikipedia community as peers in a larger process of negotiating the truth, we have the best chance of helping to build a Wikipedia that truly reflects the fullest and best picture possible of the always fraught and diverse process of establishing what we know.” While this conclusion to Famiglietti’s article makes a great point, and we shouldn’t rely on the accuracy of any one scholar, I am worried by the undervaluing of primary sources. Afterall, in today’s easy-access Internet market, many primary sources are digitized and therefore verifiable are they not?

One thought on “Ego-Stroking and Romanticizing the Past”

  1. I’m laughing to myself because of your Starbucks comment, because I logged on to post a link to a Salon story about all this hooplah about the #racetogether Starbucks ploy. An interesting continuation of our many conversations about race!

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