AMERICA LOVES A GOOD WAR, so much so that the new $1500 bill will have a Thomas Kinkade rendering of a drone bomber flying over a Middle Eastern school house, with the Latin slogan “Invadendae et Efferendo cum MDCCLXXVI” which loosely translates to “Invading and parading since 1776”. But, even more than good war, the US loves to celebrate war in movies. But while the World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, and Iraq heavy been feted on film, the Way of 1812 is rarely mentioned. In fact, the War of 1812 isn’t even taught in schools anymore in many states, being replaced by additional creationist curriculum.
So what happened back in the day? 200 years ago the British-ruled soon-to-be Canadians got all uppity about its American neighbors. The Americans were running out of Indians to kill for farmland and booming future cosmopolitan metropoli like Boise and Butte, and so were encroaching on the Northwest Territories where there were still lots of Columbus-deniers running free. Additionally, the Brits didn’t want the Americans to have trade with France, as their considerable appetite for Dijon mustard and sparkling wine would be threatened.
So President James Madison declared war on June 1, 1812, and for the next three years battles raged on land and sea, or lake. River. Water. Whatever.
Headshots thought it would be a public service to shine a light on some of the important events of the war. We have already secured the movie rights and a script is being written by the interns. The Coen Brothers are in talks to direct, with an Ernest Borgnine hologram to play Madison.
1. The White House Burned Down
That’s right kids, what currently sits at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is the White House 2.0. The Brits invaded Chesapeake Bay, took over DC like Marion Barry, scared away the President and the administration, sat down and ate a full twelve course meal, urinated all over the oval office, molested Madison’s mutt Pippy, stole the cutlery, then burned the historic residence and icon of freedom to the ground. Good news was when they rebuilt, they added a bowling alley, a day spa, and a secret room in which Presidents could get happy endings from interns.
2. B’more Represents
Before HBO’s The Wire, Baltimore was best known for crab cakes and Cal Ripken Jr. But Murdertown played a crucial role in the War of 1812, and one of the most important battles carries with it an incomparable legacy. After beating back the Brits on land and seas like a redheaded stepchild, Francis Scott Key got all emotional and composed the poem “Defence of Fort McHenry” which he self-plagiarized into a tune called “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which is now sang before all Major League Baseball games and at the opening of county fairs.
Before the War of 1812, Bermuda was a wasteland, a void of pristine beaches and untamed indigenous peoples. But, in the lead up to the conflict the Brits realized they’d be needing a warm climate to stockpile weaponry for southern attacks, the Royal Navy started buying up property in the enchanted archipelago and employing the Bermudans to build and house their materials of war. Defense infrastructure was the major industry of Bermuda until after the Second World War. Now, of course, the isle is best known for hideous shorts, a magical triangle, and a Beach Boys’ rhyme.
4. The Indians Always Get F**ked
Ever since Columbus arrived on Plymouth Rock and discovered an already occupied America, the US has been giving the First Nations peoples infected blankets, trinkets for Manhattan, and bit roles in Westerns. This all may have been put to an end during the War of 1812, but the Brit sold out their indigenous friends in the Treaty of Ghent, promising not to arm the natives, allowing the Americans to slaughter them at will and take over the west so that they could carve some dudes faces into a mountain and build cities like Des Moines. But, you know, they got casino licenses and one-eighth of varsity softball teams are nicknamed the Indians, so it’s pretty much all good now.
Two hundred years is a long time to be friends, but that’s what has happened in the two centuries following the War of 1812. Canada and America share the world’s largest unprotected border, are the world’s largest trading partners, and have not fought since the Treaty of Ghent was signed. Oh, sure, like any friendship there’s ups and downs. America’s lax gun laws allow thousands of weapons illegal in Canada to sneak across the border leading to crime and death. Canada is always braggy about their social arts funding, universal healthcare, and reasonably priced education. Canadian change ends up in American pockets, and never work in the Coke machine. But their friendship holds strong and true. Until the US runs out of clean water and invades Canada for its water aplenty. Probably sometime around 2023.
1812 Overture Finale
Mike Spry is the author of JACK (Snare Books, 2008), which was shortlisted for the 2009 QWF’s A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and he was longlisted for the 2010 Journey Prize. His most recent work is Distillery Songs (Insomniac Press, 2011).