While watching the OSU game last Saturday (I seldom watch modern TV otherwise), I caught a commercial for Colonial Williamsburg. Or, should I say, Williamsburg. The 'Colonial' being conspicuously absent. I found a commercial for Williamsburg back in 2021 that is pretty much the same (it might be the same, I just caught it once during the game):
Notice there is nothing - no thing - to suggest anything other than some variation on Myrtle Beach or Clearwater Beach or any one of a hundred tourist destinations. No history. No Colonial America. No Revolution. No historical reenactments. No shot heard 'round the world. No history at all. If you didn't know, you'd think it was a typical Disney resort, if that.
Compare to this:
That was the type of commercial in the 1990s that I saw when planning our first family vacation. In 1997 we took our oldest, then only a couple years old, to our first true vacation as a young family. We went to Colonial Williamsburg, in large part due to the commercials. It was magical. It was everything you want your first family vacation to be.
And the history! Like the commercial, it was all over the place. Everyone was in character at all times. The lessons were broad and detailed, from the ugly and bad, to the more emphasized bravery and the heroism and the sacrifice and the overall debt we owe to our founders. We went back in August 2001, and it was still good. A bit hot for my taste (our first time was in late September). But still fun, and with the three older boys (our third still being a toddler), it was a blast.
The last time we went, however, was in 2014 along with our youngest. Disappointment doesn't begin to describe our experience. Many reenactors stood about on their cell phones, paying scant attention to us. Some were still good, but many didn't seem to care. The tours were a mixed bag. The first time we went in 1997 everything was period accurate no matter what the subject. That time? Some tour guides showed up in jeans and jackets with flashlights. Much preaching of course. Naturally the lessons were exclusively negative: focus on persecution of Native Americans, sexism, bigotry and slavery in the 'every plantation and household was a gas chamber' template. That prompted my second oldest to quip 'how did they have time to fight a revolution, what with all the time spent killing Indians, beating slaves and oppressing women?'.
Now, to see the commercials, the history isn't even the point. Ignoring the history, if anything, is the point. And the newest trigger word 'Colonial' is removed. I have no doubt it's there if you visit. But if the marketers and advertisers have their way, we'll never know unless we go.
For decades - perhaps generations - we've been taught to hate the West, Christianity and America, though not necessarily in that order. There was still enough hold over from olden times to dilute the message, especially for those of us who are around our forties or older. But for the last couple generations, that is no longer the case. For many coming into college now, they see Lincoln and Washington the way my generation was taught to see Hitler and Stalin. And their nation, the United States? They see it the way we saw the Nazis. If' we're waiting for them to suddenly turn and start singing God Bless America, I fear we are going to have a long, long, long wait.