I have noted many times that living history is an illusion (good living history is a good illusion, and good illusion is an accurate recreation of a past culture). It s not a spotty recreation whose gaps and failures are unseen and unnoticed by the reenactor (I am not castigating the bad reenactor as a bad person, just as very misguided one who cannot see what he is accomplishing; they are to me more the source of disappointment and sympathy).
The subject of this installment is not the spex at events, the modern tattoos, the improper fabrics & colors, the furry mukluks pr the bright red plastic grinder drills. I saw them all at the recent event, but the most disturbing thing was the attempt to break the illusion with modern views on politics and religion.
To a good extent, this was not on the part of the reenactors. Most reenactors—no matter how farby or how accurate—try to avoid modern politics and religion (there are a few exceptions, but these are people with a very loose interpretation of living history to begin with, along with a self-assured belief that their beliefs have ben predominant throughout history). Without exception a good reenactor does not bring up things like the Republican or Democratic or any other political party, about any democracy except that of early Iceland, or Lutheranism or Latter Day Saints or Scientology. You might bring these subjects up as a way of putting the past into perspective but only fleetingly and not for their own sake.
Despite the fact that many MoPs do not understand this and may want to desperately to personalize their religious beliefs to you, it is essential that a good reenactor remains faithful to this behavior. These MoPs seem to want to intrude their personal belief into the past or in fact believe that no one in the past could believe any different from what they believe.
A reenactor represents all living history when he is in costume. This means not only that he must be accurate in his portrayal but that he must take care not to offend the MoPs. There are several ways to be polite when confronted by this…
When they bring up these matters, unless you can very quickly and easily put their views into perspective as what was different from what was believed during the period, you should just ignore it and not say anything either favorably or unfavorably. And then as son as possible, break in and attempt to bring the conversation back to the early middle ages.
Most MoPs will take the hint, but there are certain zealots who want to impress upon you how wrong you are and how right they are. At that time, the only way that you can react is to just smile and nod and not say anything. Listen for them to finish their ranting, then nod and dismiss them, saying, I have to go do this. Thank you for talking to me. At no time do you encourage them to goon…even if you personally agree with what they are saying.
Take care not to argue with them…even if they say things as patently foolish as Jesus told us the world was flat. They are the people to be educated and not belittled, so they must always be treated with care and with respect…even if you might not ordinarily give them that respect!