This past Saturday, Matt was part of a Vietnam War reenactment. I know, right, who reenacts the Vietnam War? In Matt’s defense, his involvement in this reenactment has nothing do to with some obsession on his part. His dad is a Vietnam vet, and it’s kind of a bonding thing. I think. My intention is not to tease, mostly because I’d get in trouble, but also because I think it’s sweet that Matt’s willing to take part in something that’s mostly his dad’s thing. I intended to follow Matt’s strict prohibition against laughter of any kind when he came out of his room after getting dressed. I probably could have complied if he were dressed up in a US soldier ensemble. Alas, seeing my boyfriend dressed up as a Vietcong soldier was a bit too much. Workers unite!
I have to admit that I don’t really get the concept of war reenactments. When I tried to explain my qualms to Matt he looked at me sympathetically and nodded, “You’re right, we should just forget about all that bad history stuff.” And to that I say, you look silly dressed up like a Vietnamese farmer. So there.
He’s right to some degree, of course. It is important to remember history, especially the bad parts. But do reenactments help us remember? Or do they just remove all the ugly parts of war, leaving at best a glorification of the violence that occurred, or at worst, a complete fabrication in the minds of people who weren’t there? The reenactment included reenacters from every major American confrontation and several foreign wars, including IRA members, and Polish soldiers. These groups stage battles representing their particular skirmish. For the World War II battles, there are no Nazis allowed. There are a few “German soldiers,” but they must be injured and accompanied by a nurse. Makes for a pretty quick battle. This policy brings to light the issues I have with reenactments. People blanch at letting men dress up as Nazis, because it seems to take something heinous and real, and turn it into something pretend. Necessarily, some of the rawness and ugliness is stripped away when Nazi soldiers are brought into this contrived setting.
Honestly, I don’t have that much trouble with reenactments in general. I don’t get the appeal. I’d rather read a non-fiction historical account or visit a museum. But really, of the things that tick me off, reenactments fall fairly low on the list. World hunger and violence against women and children ranking much, much higher. But I do think that taking issue with Nazis being present at reenactments is quibbling. The Nazis did terrible, awful things, but many armies have done many terrible, awful things during many wars. Where do you draw the line when it comes to war crimes? Who chooses which foes are too awful to be present at the reenactment gathering?
After I muffled my laughter at Matt’s black Vietcong uniform (paired with Rainbow sandals, naturally), I pretend pouted. “Matt, I don’t want you to go off to war,” I whined. He rested his hands on my shoulders, looked at me sincerely, and said “Don’t worry…we win.”