I've written before (such as here and here) about Canadian prejudices against the US. The other day I ran up against this again, when I took two of my children to Canada's Museum of War. [Note: In my view, the museum is very well-done, for the most part.] We spent a good chunk of our time in an exhibit on the War of 1812.
If you are an American, you may be scratching your head at this point and wondering, "War of 1812? What did that have to do with Canada? Wasn't that the time the British burned the White House?" If your memory is especially good, you will recall that Francis Scott Key composed the Star Spangled Banner during the Battle of Baltimore, and you will again wonder what that had to do with Canada.
Canadians, on the other hand, think about the War of 1812 all the time - or so it has seemed for the past year, as the radio has run regular spots advertising information about the 200th anniversary of the war. (Americans will be forgiven for not realizing that last year was the 200th anniversary; we are arithmetically challenged, in addition to our trouble remembering our history lessons.)
All year, I heard about this war. And all year, I had no idea why this was a big deal. So when the chance arose to visit the definitive, government-approved exhibit on the war, I went for it. (Full disclosure: It was also one of the only indoor attractions open in Ottawa on January 1, and I was freezing from our snowshoeing expedition.)
The exhibit presents a view of the war composed from four different national perspectives; herewith a simplified digest:
· United States: The British were taking sailors from American ships, to use them in their war against Napoleon. The US responded by attacking British colonies in Canada. This turned into a war in which the British, allied with Canadian colonists and Native Americans, fought the US. The US believed it won because it drove off the British attackers.
· Britain: The British didn't want to waste their energies in a war with the US; they were focussed on battling Napoleon's forces in Europe. They never really invested in this war, and don't remember it, much less care about it, to this day.
· Native Americans: The British promised the Native American tribes support for their needs if they would join the effort against the US. The tribes suffered great losses in the war, and did not receive meaningful compensation in return.
Canada: The US attacked Canadians, unprovoked, and the Canadians drove them off.
You see how this plays out, then: The Americans were vicious belligerents who 1) attacked the wrong people, 2) triumphed only against a British foe who didn't care enough to fight and against the abused Native Americans, and 3) were beaten by the noble Canadians, who were only defending their homes against American invaders.
I'm glad to note that only 22,000 people have watched that, while 500,000 people have seen the College Humor parody: