The little village I where I live is on the Erie Canal. Main Street struggles mightily to stay afloat with a few eateries, local small business and second hand, antique and consignment shops. The local Chamber of Commerce, bless their hearts, is doing their best to bring folks in off their pleasure boats, drawing on canal and village history, including the legend of canal pirates. Hence Pirate Weekend in upstate New York – replete with costume parties, bed races and all manner of eye-patched, “Argghh Matey”, walk-the-yardarm fun.
I’m not getting all sanctimonious or anything. I mean, I love a good costume party as much as the next person. I also admit to taking the grandkids to Pirate Weekend for a couple of hours last year to kill some time. But honestly, Pirate Days make me a little uneasy.
I know I’m going to get the #buzzkill treatment for this but . . .
Pirates are criminals who steal, kidnap, murder and enslave.
Pirates most definitely did not speak in the English West Country accent popularized in Hollywood by actor Robert Newton’s portrayal of Long John Silver and Blackbeard in the movies of the 1950s.
Most famous pirates during Middle Ages were Viking raiding parties that harassed [read pillaged and plundered] most of coastal Europe.
The Barbary corsairs who came from ports located in Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, and Morocco managed to enslave over 1 million Europeans.
Pirates with hook hands, wooden peg legs, and parrots on their shoulders were the creation of the novelists of the 18th and 19th century.
Most accomplished pirate of all time was Henry Morgan, Welsh buccaneer who plundered on behalf of English crown. He was remembered as incredibly ruthless.
Females, as sexy as we look in those costumes, whether pirates themselves or aboard ship as slaves, did not fare well.
The most notorious pirate in the Caribbean was Edward Low. He built his notoriety by cruelly torturing his prisoners before killing most of them.
Some pirates were the tool of governments but most plundered trading ships and ports out of sheer greed.
Pirates used every torture device they could get their hands on, but in all recorded history they almost never used the wooden plank to force their prisoners to jump to the sea. Most of the people that they wanted to kill were just unceremoniously thrown from the ship.
Not a single real pirate treasure map was ever found.
There are real pirates at work in the world today and they are no laughing matter.
So, as much as I get that Small Town USA needs something to draw the tourist trade, and nothing sells like ghost stories and drunkeness, I think I’ll pass on the annual glorification of criminal bad-assery.