Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30, 2012

When Historical Accuracy Goes Too Far

Last night I watched some travel videos concerning St. Augustine, Florida while remembering my recent trip and looking forward to returning. (Of course, rooting for Fort Caroline and the Huguenots, looking at videos of St. Augustine undoubtedly made me a traitor of sorts!). In this video, a costumed reenactor representing a Spanish soldier of 1740 was giving a musket-firing demonstration. Harmless enough, I thought. But after firing, he actually looked into the crowd and said “and another Protestant bites the dust.”

I felt that this was very offensive, not to mention shocking. I cannot imagine how I would have felt if I had been standing there, for as a Protestant there are already many places in St. Augustine that I feel my faith is unwelcome. I understand that the Spanish Catholics saw the French Protestants as nonbelievers and probably would have expressed such sentiments, but it is not appropriate and certainly does not honor the dead, considering that I know the event from where this sentiment came.

It seems that the massacre of Matanzas near St. Augustine, where nearly 250 men were slaughtered for their faith and for upholding the French flag, can unfortunately be used as fodder for jokes and used as a “teaching tool.” I agree that visitors should understand that there was enmity between the two groups. Even if this was a man costumed from 1565, it still would not have been acceptable, but it would have made sense. But in 1740? There were no Protestants in St. Augustine! 

Now I may just be sensitive in this regard, but I felt personally offended and am particularly saddened that the bloodshed Protestants faced in the area of the Nation’s Oldest City is made into comedic material or quick little jabs meant to “entertain.” I feel that if other ethnic or religious groups would have been referred to in such a way, there would have been an outcry. It seems that when Indian or Spanish burial grounds and the like are uncovered, any remains are laid to rest with great ceremony or at least some amount of respect. 

Nearly four and a half centuries after the French martyrs died at Matanzas, their sacrifice is being cheapened, dishonored, and offended. It was no walk in the park, being shipwrecked, suffering under the pretense of hoped-for mercy, and having their hands tied behind their backs. It was no joke to make the decision to die rather than renounce their God and the faith they held so dear.

If so many other events and sacrifices are remembered, why not this? It is arguably the bloodiest event in St. Augustine history and should be treated with interest, respect, and a desire to educate others on what truly happened. Yet, thinking on that video, I remembered that I have encountered such “jokes” personally. 

Once while I was riding a sightseeing train at St. Augustine’s famous Fountain of Youth, I noticed a man dressed in full sixteenth century garb. He asked if there were any French on the train, and said that if there were, they had better stay there, because there was only one thing they were good for. It took me a moment to realize that there was a fine line between stating historical fact, mocking, and trying to “entertain.” I do not think other bloody events in St. Augustine’s history would have been cheapened in such a way. It should not be casually spoken of, tossed around for “authenticity,” or demeaned. It was no joke.

In both instances, the one I witnessed and the one I encountered through video, I am sure the reenactors thought they were being “authentic” and perhaps even “cute.” But, even if you happen to be from a different denomination, it is not all right to insult and demean Christians of any stripe, and it is not all right to vilify the dead and make light of their bloodshed. May the Huguenots be remembered only for their faith and courage!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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