Friday, April 27, 2007

Historical Stupidity

A few weeks ago, the Gunfighter family took a vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was spring break in our local schools, and we wanted some concentrated family time, away from commuting household duties, and everything else.

Williamsburg is one of our favorite places, because Mrs Gunfighter and I are real history geeks. Wait, that isn't quite accurate. Mrs Gunfighter loves history and is a professional historian... I'm a history geek (the difference being that she is trained and has a Doctorate in the discipline... I'm just an oddball with books). Anyway, one of the things we love about Williamsburg is the plethora of good bookstores. Indeed, one of the first things we usually do after getting into town, is to go straight to the Books-A-Million that is near the college of William & Mary (where we REALLY want soccer girl to go).

Well, when we got to Williamsburg this time around, we did the exact same thing. Went to the bookstore. While we settled in and browsed in the various sections, a man came up to me to hand me a flyer, which I accepted. I noticed right away that this fellow was dressed in a black quasi-military outfit that was part Chairman Mao...

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and part Che Guevara

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Anyway, he said "have a look at this" and walked away. When I looked at it, this is what I saw:

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For those that didn't know, the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the settlement of Jamestown, which marked the beginning of the colonization of North America.

Now, I'm not ignorant of history. Far from it. Neither am I ignorant of the horrors of slavery and some of it's lingering effects. I'm not ignorant of slavery's brutal practices, and I don't think that raising the level of awareness of these things is bad.

Having said all of the above, I think that; A) Celebrating the establishment of the settlement that eventually led to the creation of the United States (and Canada) is a good thing; and B) Suggesting that the celebration makes a mockery of the brutality of slavery is wrong-headed.

I'm not one of those "slavery-happened-then-it-went-away-get-over-it" people, but I think a little perspective is in order. Most of the information that you can find regarding the history of Jamestown and about the establishment of a slavery culture in America has been very sensitive to the incredible importance of the contributions of slaves and free blacks to the creation and the early economic viability of the United States.

No one should think that racism isn't still a problem in this country. It is, and when it rears it's ugly head, it must be attacked.

The celebration of the founding of Jamestown isn't racist, and it shouldn't be attacked.

When I see that manifesto of the idiots in the The New Black Panther Party. I see a group of people that would have better spent their time actually learning their own history before displaying their ignorance.

There are many problems in this country, folks. The Jamestown celebration isn't one of them.

I hate historical stupidity.


super des said...

There are so many things like that. I like to play know-it-all and correct them, but that never helps - it just makes the people with fliers call me insensitive and racist, sexist, anti-semitic, and whatever else they think applies.

If anyone should be offended, it's the Native Americans (see how PC I am?) because they are the reason that this colony survived: they helped out the settlers... until the settlers killed them.

Janet said...

When is the celebration taking place, or does it run all year? That might be a nice thing to visit while Mom and I are down there.

Gunfighter said...


It runs all year.

When are you coming? I can't wait to see you.

Just so you know, Elizabeth II will be here in two weeks.

Jenn said...

I love how so many people use images of Che and Mao for ridiculous things like protesting a historical celebration.

Or even the college kids who have big Bob Marley posters in their dorms, a photo of Che and then Dave Matthews right next to it. (Also, to fulfill the total stereotype they are from Connecticut and have never wanted for anything except new Birkenstocks and money from their parents for a Phish concert ticket.)

It makes it pretty obvious they have no clue who those people are, what they did, what their philosophies were. So annoying and naive and ignorant at the same time.

Ok, done ranting now.

Janet said...

The vacation is May 26 through June 11th. We are going to be based in Richmond for the first weekend and Frederick for the second. We haven't worked out any details beyond that. Can't wait to see you!

P.S. My word verification started with GOP. I hope that doesn't mean they have invaded your blog.