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Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Note to self: The next time you try to sound smart by citing history, make sure you get the history right.
Many readers reminded me of this March 7, soon after publication of the column about Roanoke City Public Schools' decision to substitute foam rocks for fake muskets in a Patrick Henry High School stage production of "Les Miserables."
The column noted that the play, based on the Victor Hugo novel, was set during the French Revolution. That was incorrect by about four decades.
Thomas Caceci of Blacksburg called it "a glaring error of fact that could have been corrected with two minutes' time with Google or an almanac."
"The setting for the main events of the novel is the June Rebellion [of 1832] , nearly 45 years after the Revolution; it was an attempt to prevent the establishment of the Louis-Phillipe monarchy. The uprising was over in a few days," Caceci wrote.
Another who knows his history was Jeffrey Dorsey of Salem. "I'm sure I'm probably not the first to tell you that Hugo's Les Miserables is NOT set during the French Revolution," he wrote.
And then there was Li Kane of Roanoke. "Please check your facts. I would've gotten an 'F' in journalism if I'd written this column," she noted.
Guilty as charged - and ouch!
There were others, however, who appreciated the column's point: Perhaps we are taking the deal with guns a little far when you can't have phony muskets on a high school stage.
"It is indeed silly to mollify history to preserve the perceived innocence of kids who then go home and frag tangos on 'Modern Warfare' or who can watch a movie where hundreds fall in gunfights sans any meaning or consequence," wrote Darren Todd of Roanoke.
Mark Lucas, the Roanoke businessman who ran for mayor last year, agreed.
"Some in society have become so mind numbed in their view of guns that they are making ridiculous decisions like the ones illustrated in your column," Lucas wrote. "Both my daughters attend and have attended [Patrick Henry], and I'm a big fan of Rita Bishop, but historical revisionism has got to stop."
Andrew Smith of Pilot emailed that he almost laughed when he read in the column that "Actors and actresses will instead throw black-painted foam balls that are shaped like rocks."
But "Instead of laughing, I experienced a sadness and embarrassment at what our country has become," Smith continued. He added that he wishes terrorists would "throw foam balls - they would hurt a lot less than the bullets and shrapnel that me and so many of my brothers have taken."
Another column that brought forth a lot of feedback ran March 12, and it was about the National Park Service's crackdown on the Tuesday Night (Bike) Ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Kristine McCormick wrote that she has attended public meetings between the park service and area cyclists.
"Although these sessions were intended to allow for public comment the Blue Ridge Parkway the Department of Interior representatives really had no interest in what we had to say as a cycling community. It could not have been more evident that the Department of the Interior is anti-cycling.
"If I had to hear 'historical use' (read cars only) one more time, I thought I might start screaming at officials. I do not use the parkway to commute, (which I'm sure doesn't fall under historical use either) but instead wish to enjoy its scenic beauty on two wheels rather than four."
Regarding the March 14 column about how the tea party was trying derail federal status for the Crooked Road, Bill Modica of Salem wrote:
"Thanks for not letting up on the Tea Party Nuts and their Agenda 21 Conspiracy fantasy. They are just using fear and phony research reports to drum up membership dues ... I was glad to see Rep. Morgan Griffith was not taking their side in punishing the Crooked Road folks for seeking [National Heritage Area] funding."
Last we have Richard Wells, publisher of The Roanoker and other magazines. He loved the March 3 column about the Azar family of Roanoke County, and the house guest they could not get rid of who got Jeana Azar temporarily kicked out of her own home.
It was so good, Wells wrote, " I think I'll keep my subscription another year. Can you order an edition that comes without the editorial page?"
The house guest is gone, by the way, and the Azars are glad to be rid of her.
Thank you, readers, for weighing in with corrections and other thoughts. Please keep those letters, emails, phone calls and blog posts coming.
Dan Casey's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.
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