Oh come back proud Canadians,
To before you had TV.
No Hockey Night in Canada,
There was no CBC.
In 1812 Madison was mad, he was the President you know,
Well he thought he’d tell the British, where they ought to go.
He thought he’d invade Canada. He thought that he was tough. Instead we went to Washington….
And burned down all his stuff!
So begins The War of 1812 by The Arrogant Worms. Come on, we all learned about it in High School. It was that one interesting part of History Class, all about the time we beat the Americans in a War! Amurica, the world’s greatest military power, the country that made the Germans quake in their boots twice! No one had ever beaten them before or since—except at the Alamo, Vietnam, The Bay of Pigs…okay, well, I mean, usually they aren’t that easy to beat and we are one of the few extant countries able to do it! Of course THEY say that THEY won the war, just like they win every war, but that’s just to soothe their ego. We won! And now is the last year to celebrate!
This summer happens to be the bicentennial of The Burning of Washington! See, in the spring before 1813, American troops crossed Lake Ontario to lay siege to York (now known as Toronto, soon to be Fordville). They raided the city, burned down the Parliament Buildings, destroyed public and private property, and shot a lot of people… despite being told by their superiors not to.
Now, the British were pretty pissed about this, so they decided to organize a raid on Washington for the next summer (it took a long time to set these things up—I guess everyone still had dial-`1up). In the summer of 2014 the British, and supposedly some of the Canadian Militia—we like to think some of the Canadian militia—sailed to Washington and torched the place. They burned the Library of Congress, and the parts of Congress still under construction at the time. They even approached the White House, which was actually grey at the time, not white. Dolly Madison (the First Lady) came running out of her home, clutching a tattered picture of George Washington and fled the city. Her husband and the other men in the government had left earlier, leaving mostly women and children in Washington without any defence. Such a sign of American bravery!
Back in the present, 200 years after the war ended (again, we won) a diplomat at the British Embassy in Washington, tweeted the following picture of a cake with the White House on it:
Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House. Only sparklers this time! pic.twitter.com/QIDBQTBmmL
— British Embassy (@UKinUSA) August 24, 2014
The above picture and accompanying comment caused an uproar. Washington went up in flames as it were, and prompted an apology and an explanation from the Embassy.
It didn’t highlight the fact that most Americans aren’t taught about the historic implications of the War of 1812. After all, a lot of their textbooks were written in 1810! Our textbooks north of the border were at least last updated after World War 2. Given the fact that they lost, it’s not something they want to brag about either. In any case, a great number of Americans didn’t know what was going on and felt it was a terrible tweet to tack onto Twitter. Granted, most of those who complained probably didn’t get the joke, although some did and they found it quite funny (Brits or Canadians at heart I am sure). An international crises was, however, averted when the joke was realized and the celebration of beating the Americans went on at the Embassy. Little happened North of the Border, but, since our government doesn’t like celebrating veterans who are still living, why would they go out of their way to honour veterans long dead? Besides, its 2014, the government has an entire World War to take credit for over the next few years.