Commonplace Book #97

Some of the boomer generation chose to embrace “heritage,” the personal quest for experiencing the past.  It was no coincidence that heritage emerged with the drive for authenticity.  Both held out hopes of holism through genuine subjective experience, both smoothly dovetailed commercial with sacred, and both provided entertainment, relying on the visual and tangible in an era soaked with images and an abundance of goods.  Both were equally “spiritual.”  Heritage, in fact, included a faith that required only belief with no appeal to the reasoned arguments of history.  And heritage also atomized believers, although into groups of image tribes such as collectors, heritage tourists, wargamers, preservationists, and reenactors.  Heritage offered therapy for a cynical postvictory culture where America’s long-running story of triumph had finally ended with Vietnam.  It reflected New Age religion, but it differed in its use of the temporal over the eternal.  Heritage attempted to slow change by manufacturing moments of the past.  A heritage moment could restore wholeness or provide a sense of control in an alienating world.  Despite society’s loss of national pride and purpose, heritage enabled its practitioners to descend into a private world of triumph, aided by increasingly sophisticated media technology.

Jim Weeks, Gettysburg: Memory, Market, and an American Shrine, 197.