In Managing Editor Bruce Heydt’s book review of The Heritage Crusade (August/ September 1999, page 57), he says the “ancient racial memories” in celebrating heritage are “incendiary.” Some are. But he says that “past defeats or suffering,” such as “Pearl Harbor, Easter 1916, and the Holocaust” should not be considered legitimate heritage but are “motivation for perpetuating feuds.” This was unfair; these are legitimate remembrances of those who have died at the hands of oppressors. This also seems contradictory to his incendiary statement (in the same issue’s “Letter-Box” department, page 4) about Joan of Arc–his implication that she was insane. (By the way, I’m not Catholic.) What is contradictory, it appears, is that the reason he smears her name is “past defeats or suffering,” resentment for English military defeat through her God-led efforts against oppression.
Pride, personal or national, is the root of much suffering. If the only thing that people were proud of was that God, who has all power, deigns to hear our prayers–and give “instruction” through the Bible for our good and inner peace–there would be no oppression that leads to awful wars; no martyrs to remember; no defeats to remember; no incendiary, oppressive remarks or acts to forgive ourselves for or to defend against criticism.
But Mr. Heydt is right about some traditions being foolish or unfair. Let me add my own thoughts in agreement: Only with a cane are some old men strong. Only with money is noble ancestry of any use. Only with a well-placed shill here and there does a ruler actually have any power at all.
But here’s a still-up-to-date wise old tradition: We all have our canes; I would rather lean on God, and admire others who do.
Just to clarify: the viewpoints expressed in the review of David Lowenthal’s book were those of Mr. Lowenthal, not my own, and so I can in fairness accept neither credit for those opinions with which readers agree, nor blame for those points on which they do not. For what it’s worth, my own opinion is that Pearl Harbor, at least, is actually a rather good example of how a defeat can become a part of a nation’s heritage in a positive way. As many as a third of the tourists who visit the Arizona Memorial each year are Japanese. They come and stand side by side with Americans without animosity and reflect on the wastefulness of war. But this is undeniably the exception to the rule. One has to wonder how long it will be before the memory of conflicts between Jew and Arab, or Serb and Croat, becomes more therapeutic than inflammatory.
The Letter-Box article, as I’m sure most readers understood, was in no way a “smear” of Joan d’Arc; nor was it prompted by a resentment of her for defeating the English (I’m not English). The article was simply a light-hearted look at several historical “what-ifs.” My speculation about what might have happened had Joan’s neighbours persuaded her to ignore her “voices” was in the nature of asking “What if pigs could fly?” Such speculation does not imply a belief that they can! Nor was my article intended to suggest that St. Joan was actually insane.
As far as God, canes, and other wise old traditions–I couldn’t agree more.
On page 48 of the April/May issue is an illustration captioned “A crop circle near Silbury Hill,” but I find no explanation of this in the text of the article “A Walk Through Time.” Can you explain what a crop circle is?
Editor’s note: Crop circles are geometric designs formed in cultivated fields by flattening some of the crops. These formations are usually circular, but are sometimes very complex patterns of linked circles and rings. The phenomenon peaked in England during the ’70s and ’80s and has been variously attributed to flying saucers, freak weather conditions, and pranksters. In the early ’90s two men confessed to having created the crop circles using simple tools, but rather than ending the mystery this only added to the controversy, because the confession itself was labelled a hoax by crop circle enthusiasts.TIPS FOR READERS
Part of the joy of working as editor for BRITISH HERITAGE is discovering various items that readers might also find interesting. Here are a few that I felt you might like. Of course, the editors of BRITISH HERITAGE are not the only ones who like to share tips, so please feel free to send us your suggestions, and we’ll try to print as many of them as we can.
If you love books, like I do, and if you’d like to visit Wales next year, then I highly recommend visiting the Hay-on-Wye Festival of Literature, held annually in the pleasant market town at the foot of the Black Mountains in Wales. This year the ten-day festival featured many fascinating authors and well-known personalities such as John Mortimer and Peter Ustinov. I’ve written an article about my visit for the Feb/March issue and will be taking a readers’ tour to Hay in the year 2000. In the meantime, if you’d like more information, please visit the festival’s website at www.litfest.co.uk.
FOR THE FASHIONABLE TRAVELLER
Packing for a trip to the U.K. is always a bit of a challenge. The weather can be variable. You might find yourself rambling along the Downs one day and enjoying dinner in a London restaurant the next. Thankfully, these days packing is a lot easier than it used to be with a better choice of lightweight, wrinkle-free clothing available in presentable styles. In addition to comfy shoes, I purchased two very useful items recently: a long raincoat and a short-sleeve black dress suitable for both day and night excursions. They were not cheap but both more than lived up to expectations. If you are looking for easy-care and easy-to-pack clothing, I recommend that you take a look at TravelSmith’s catalogue for a selection of clothes well suited for travel. You can call 800-950-1600 for a free catalogue or visit their website at www.travelsmith.com.