But "other people" don't always get this. I've read plenty of disparaging remarks about the hobby, from its participants' stability to the level of research. Some of this comes from the odd nut here and there, as any group will harbor (though, given that we handle real weapons, we tend to ferret those kooks out pretty quickly). Some of it comes from our early years, when many reenactors were less concerned with research and authenticity, and simply didn't have the resources we have today. Much of it comes from simply not understanding what we do.
One funny anectdote--I once wrote a paper for a history seminar in college about the benefits of living history and reenactment as pedagogical tools. The thesis was constructed against a quote found in an article I read researching the topic--that reenactors were merely amateurs out to play soldier for the weekend. This made me hopping mad. Yes, we're amateurs in that we aren't professional historians (well, I modify that--some of us actually are historians and teachers by profession, but that's beside the point). And yes, much of what we do is focused on the military. But play--play implies we're only doing it for ourselves. We aren't, simply are not. We're doing it so, as my organization's motto states, "that others may learn."
So I wrote this paper, with the quote emblazoned at the top and a fiery thesis statement against this concept, and popped it into my professor's box--only to realize that the quote I had just written a ten-page paper disproving had been made by another professor at my university, as his box was directly above hers. Well, oops. But how's this for academic honesty (or perhaps my prof thought him a bit of a stuffed shirt, too)--the paper earned an A.
I was thinking about what our hobby must look like to outsiders this morning because the inimitable M.M. Bennetts just posted reflections on a visit to a Napoleonic reenactment. It was refreshing to read the observations and impressions of someone outside the hobby with a keen appreciation for history--and a clear appreciation for what reenactors do.
As I mentioned in my comment to M.M.'s post, we love visitors. We reenact because we love it, but also because of our visitors--their questions, their enjoyment, the insistent belief that they're learning something about which we care passionately. Check out the schedule of an organization in your area and make a trip to see them in action--and don't be shy about approaching the participants with questions or just to chat.
Linked below, several schedules for several top-notch organizations of which I am aware. There are more; I just don't know about all of them and unfortunately have little grasp on the living history community outside of the American Revolution.
NWTA--Midwestern United States; Revolutionary War
BAR--Contingents across the United States (includes Eastern, Southern, Western subgroups); Revolutionary War
Continental Line--East Coast United States; Revolutionary War
British Brigade--East Coast United States; Revolutionary War