BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Here, where Titanic, the massive White Star Line luxury liner, was built -- the joke for years has been, "It was fine when it left here." This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship "Not even God himself could sink...." and the centenary is being observed in diverse ways.
There are solemn remembrances. A "Requiem for the Lost Souls of the Titanic" is scheduled for St. Anne's Cathedral and there's a Titanic Commemoration Service and Unveiling of the Titanic Memorial Gardens at City Hall.
Elsewhere, the government and entrepreneurs are seeking to make a profit. The Titanic Belfast visitor attraction opened March 31 and is sold out through April 16. MTV UK is staging a "Titanic Sounds" event, which it is billing as "the biggest party in the world." A party about a tragedy; how modern.
In America, where Titanic was headed when it sank April 15, 1912, about 960 miles northeast of New York City, James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster film "Titanic" is being re-released in 3-D. The film gives us the fictional romance between "Rose" and "Jack" and, as generally agreed, even by Cameron himself, a host of historical inaccuracies that may be all a generation of young people will learn about the ill-fated ship and its tragic maiden voyage.
The 1953 film, "Titanic," starring Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck, also contained historical inaccuracies and fabricated scenarios, as did the 1958 film "A Night to Remember," another Hollywood interpretation of the tragic sinking.
The true story of the Titanic, however, is quite different and as far as I know has never been told in a feature film. In Cameron's version, he depicts the wealthy as asserting their privilege over third-class passengers and crew so they could escape in lifeboats not made available to all, a depiction that plays on issues of class warfare and social inequality.
In many cases, the opposite was true, according to documented historical accounts that include real-life examples of rich passengers coming to the aid of the less fortunate. Writing in the March issue of the Christian publication, "Tabletalk," Dr. Harry L. Reeder, a Presbyterian minister in Birmingham, Ala., cites one such example of the selflessness of the rich and their sacrifices for the "lower classes." Dr. Reeder laments the missed opportunity by filmmakers to tell a far more dramatic and compelling story, the real story of the Titanic.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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