I read an article in the Huffington Post this morning that talked about how a museum shop in Gettysburg was selling a John Wilkes Booth bobblehead but suddenly removed the product from their shelves. No specific reason was given for the removal of the bobblehead but one can only imaging the reason. The Booth bobblehead was displayed in a box designed to look like Ford’s Theater and Booth himself is holding a derringer in his hand.
Here’s my beef with the situation. Every other major Civil War figure, including my former husband, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, has been made into a lucrative junk toy industry in Gettysburg and elsewhere (but it’s especially bad in Gettysburg). You can buy bobbleheads of Abe Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S Grant, Joshua L. Chamberlain, etc. There is no difference in the level of disrespect no matter who the bobblehead is meant to portray. The Civil War in most of the major tourist locations is a booming commercialized machine. I once counted and Joshua L. Chamberlain’s face is used to sell 37 different kinds of junk, from dolls, to clocks, to tote bags, to beer, to cigars, to Legos.
So basically if people are going to moan about a John Wilkes Booth bobblehead, then every other piece of junk sold to trivialize and disrespect that period of American history needs to be pulled from the shelves too. If every other Civil War figure is a bobblehead, then John Wilkes Booth should be too. He was a major figure in the outcome of the war no matter his personal views, mental illnesses, alcoholism, etc. Commercialized junk is universal. There was a doll sold about twenty years ago in Harper’s Ferry that depicted John Brown hanging from the gallows. Really, and people might be offended by a simple bobblehhead?
We cannot pick and choose what parts of the war should be made into commercialized junk and which should not. John Wilkes Booth was not the only racist with extremist views by far. Lincoln himself was quite the racist. All of the men used to sell products today were killers. They all killed men. Many of them were slave owners, alcoholics, and so forth. I am not defending what John Wilkes Booth did by any means, but I am saying that if we’re going to go down the road of commercializing a terrible period of history, then all of the key players should be included. It’s not up to the 21st century American to rewrite or whitewash history. Either make all of it available to the people or remove all of it from the store shelves. Picking and choosing who stays and who goes is giving the 21st century American the power to erase parts of our history because those parts might be politically incorrect now or uncomfortable to consider.