Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reenactors gone Nuts.

Years ago I drove into a civil war 're-enactment' area near Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. The fist indication of that was passing a 'convoy' of truck-towed horse trailers and  a flatbed with three 19th century field cannon, on the Interstate. The second was a group of  barefoot  'johnny rebs'  walking barefoot along the side of a tarmacked road running west from the Gettysburg National park. The industrialized campsite-cum-parkinglot-cum sutlers mart-cum battlefield hoved, shortly, into view and I just had to stop.

Reenacting in America is big business, and deadly serious. It is a 'celebration of heritage' engaged in by a growing number of American doctors, lawyers, indian chiefs and anybody else with the boodle to buy an outfit and two weeks annual holidays to travel to an 'engagement'.  Life 'as it was' is relived 'en bivouac'. There are babies born, marriages made and I'm pretty sure  - should somebody have the misfortune to pass away - that - along with reverend chaplain and the bugle serenade - he, or she,  could get the ministrations of the camp embalmer with his turpentine and formaldehyde enema machine - suitably corked, boxed  and shipped off to loving family for a hero's (sanitary) interment. It's a lifestyle.

That Sunday it was disconcerting to see a modern-day ambulance drive into a 19th century "cavalry melee" to pick up a participant wounded by a replica 19th century pistol-shot carelessly left in a replica 19th  century pistol by a 21st century 'hoss sojer'. The 'carefree' individual was never found - everybody was, after all,  dutifully discharging 'blanks' from whatever 19th century weapons (replicas) they had - as the PA system directed the battle ("From the right side of the field you will now observe Montgomery's Royal Peruvian Horse Marines storm the position known as the Candelabra - well done Captain Jack Pearson, of Pearson's Hardware in Muncie, Indiana - a valiant show, boys, a valiant show!")

The 'show' has spread to other historical periods, The Romans are again on the march -  'mille passus vivat'.   Roundheads still 'press pike' with Cavaliers.  Redcoats of all description take on all their historic foe(s). We even dig trench systems to go 'over the top' (watch for much more of this in the next four years) and reprise the 'Big One' - DubleyahDubleyah two .. on land sea and in the air.

Is it any wonder, then, that looking at the situation in Ukraine, it would be a surprise to see 'Taras Bulba' himself ranting in the Maidan?  Shaven topknots and wild mustachios being virtually 'de rigeur' in the 'new' Ukraine. Baggy pants and pointed boots are the rage - if you can get them.  The Russians have their cossacks in 'traditional dress' as well. That 'tradition' also plays into more recent, and far nastier, history - with 'nationalist' units sporting the uniforms and badges of their fascist grandsires and 'communist' units sporting the star and accoutrements of the the Red Guard. Indeed those old 'politics' are once again roiling the surface for 'payback'. The re-enactment that had a touristy,  educative sort of value, a few years ago, is now promising practical demonstrations of Cossack swordsmanship on the 'enemies and terrorists' opposing progress, or 'selling out to the west'. "Smert to_____" - fill in your own blank it is the EuroMaidan password.

If it wasn't for the tragedy involved, this  might be entertaining. For a lot of people in high places, I'm afraid that it is and was intended to be .. entertaining, or a distraction from something else, more important and far closer to home.  We'll have to wait and see why this is happening at all  and why  now? For the Ukraine, sadly, it's no reenactment - it's the real thing .... again.

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