Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Getting Tired of Myth America

Americans love to mythologize their history.  That proclivity has played a vital role in maintaining their cherished notion of American exceptionalism.  

Witness the myth that they won the War of 1812, the war the United States declared for the specific purpose of conquering and annexing Canada.   Oh sure they had ten times our population and vastly better lines of communication and all sorts of tactical advantages but we drove them out, repeatedly, didn't we?  We're not still here because they wanted it that way.  Remember that when you get the great barrage of triumphalism from south of the border when the war's bicentennial arrives in just two years.

Canada was America's first war of aggression and conquest, its very first foreign war, and it ended the way a lot of their foreign wars have been ending lately.   I guess when you get your ass handed to you on a platter a little mythological salve is okay.   We'll look the other way.   But only up to a point.

For some strange reason, American politicians since 9/11 have repeatedly clung to the myth that the 9/11 terrorists got into the U.S. via lax security at the Canadian border.   Now, with the midterm Congressional elections nearing they're at it again.   Naturally it's coming from the shallow end of the gene pool, a Tea Partier.

The Chicken Lady, Sharon Angle who is running against fellow Nevadan Harry Reid came up with this zinger:   “what we know is our northern border is where the terrorists came through.”  Ambassador Gary Doer has written to this ditz to set the record straight.  Yet it's become a bit tedious.   Other prominent Americans who've spewed this same nonsense include Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, John McCain and Newt Gingrich.  I'm sure there have been others, plenty of them.

When will Americans figure out that it was their government that issued visas allowing every one of the 9/11 hijackers to come right through the front door?

By the way, I'm dusting off my own collection of War of 1812 artifacts in preparation for the bicentennial.   To me, that was the most important war Canada ever fought and won.  If we had lost it, I or my brother might well have been drafted to fight in Vietnam and you and I might now be living with the likes of Glenn Beck, the Patriot Act and the Tea Party.  When you think about it, you owe a real debt of gratitude to those British regulars, our Canadian militiamen who fought with the Voltigeurs, the Canadian Fencibles, the Glengarry Light Infanty and smaller Canadian forces and heroes like Isaac Brock, Charles de Salaberry and the "Green Tiger" himself, James Fitzgibbon.


Anonymous said...

You should take the time to read a few of the more prominent books from US authors on the War of 1812. Donald R. Hickey has written extensively on the war and earlier this year gave a lecture on it at the Canadian Military College in Kingston, Ontario. Also, a new book by Alan Taylor just came out on the war. Both of these authors state that the US lost the war and they are not the only ones who say this in the US. Do some reading and you will have a better understanding of the diverse opinions in the US. Stereotyping does not make anyone look very good.

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks for the references, Anon. I'll try to get my hands on Hickey's and Taylor's books. I apologize if I offended you.


The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, see the power or reasoned persuasion? I have just ordered Forgotten Conflict, The Civil War of 1812, and Don't Give Up the Ship.

Thanks again for the references.

Anonymous said...

My comment was intended to promote some of the better US works on this war with the bicentennial coming. I am happy to see that you have ordered two of Hickey's works and the recent book by Taylor. They are very different books. Hickey's first book, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, is a US-centric work that deals with the social, political, economic, diplomatic and military aspects of the war in the US. He does not write much on Canada (Upper and Lower Canada). His second book, Don't Give Up the Ship! Myths of the War of 1812 is not a chronological history of the war but rather a list of selected topics on the war. Taylor's book, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies, is almost exclusively about the fighting in the area from Detroit to Montreal. He offers an interesting interpretation of the war that I don't entirely agree with. I should add that the other controversial aspect of this war is the claim that the US intended to annex Canada. Both Hickey and Taylor interpret the vote for war as being far more complex in its origin than simply a desire to annex Canada. Good reading.