Day By Day

Monday, June 12, 2006

Jamestown at the Inner Harbor

This past weekend the Inner Harbor has hosted an elaborate celebration, produced by the Colonial Willamsburg Foundation, and funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia, honoring "America's Four-Hundredth Birthday" -- well..., 399th actually, but they are revving up for next year.

The point of the whole thing is to focus attention on the founding of Jamestown in 1607, to draw tourists into Virginia, and to celebrate our national heritage.

I wonder, will there be similar attention given to the founding of Santa Fe in 1609? Probably not.

The centerpiece of the festivities was the "Godspeed" a reconstruction of one of the three original ships bringing settlers to Jamestown. All day long a trickle of visitors visited the unprepossessing ship which served as a reminder of just how obscure the beginnings of English colonization were.

There were booths, games, craft demonstrations, a folk singer, displays illustrating the lives of heroic or iconic figures of every imaginable ethnic group, stage presentations and all sorts of such things. You know, the standard Williamsburg experience transplanted to the Inner Harbor.

It didn't attract very large crowds, but those who attended -- mostly old geezers like me and young families with kids -- seemed to be having a pretty good time. I know "She Who Must Not Be Named" enjoyed herself. "She" particularly liked listening to the folk singer who was glad to have an appreciative audience -- us and one other guy.

I, however, found the whole thing to be more than a bit annoying. I have devoted most of my adult life to a serious academic study of history and find the dumbed-down, Disneyfied, version of our national experience on display here to be off-putting. I'm sure there's a place for such things, but it is not a place I want to be. The realization has been growing for several years now that while I am fascinated by history, I just don't give a tinkers dam about the bizarre cartoonery we call "our national heritage." So, in a small sense, the stroll into the imaginary world created by the festival's organizers, was also a journey of self-discovery, and as such it was well worthwhile.

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