History v Entertainment

At a dinner party recently, a few of us somehow got onto the subject of movies.  I suspect one of the participants in the discussion was woke before anybody thought to call it that.  We all agreed that the stereotypes filmed years ago were now no longer quite as prevalent (no one mentioned “Birth of a Nation,” so maybe the group wasn’t quite as left as I surmised).  At one point I did mention Seattle’s sordid history of “red lining.”  One person was surprised, another agreed that Seattle has been far less than “progressive” in its history.

But, as I sat here (days after the dinner party) watching Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in “Holiday Inn” (admittedly, one of my all-time faves at this time of year), I was struck by the “number” that Bing performed for the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  I’m sure I’ve seen that movie a dozen or more times; but this was the first time that I found that particular scene repugnant.

Of course this would be a fitting segue to other abominations in our nation’s history.  ‘Nuf said, there?

Having grown up in Indiana, and graduated from what I have always considered a very open-minded high school, I am almost as surprised at the history of the “Hoosier State” as I am at how little was taught – or at least, how little I learned.

Should Bing Crosby’s “black face” routine ever have been regarded as entertainment?  Hell, no.  However, it is history – it is an accurate, albeit repugnant, representation of what audiences found entertaining.  It is, as The History Guy on YouTube is so fond of saying: “History that deserves to be remembered.”  And, I might add, taught to my own children.  Just like the Buddha statues at Bamiyan, and the Taliban’s destruction.

Fun Fact: there is now a mosque at the site of the statues – just like a mosque at the remains of the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  History does not, in and of itself, repeat.  However, people with very short memories make the same mistakes as their (our) ancestors.

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