Would the federal government please cut it out with their War of 1812 ads? One minute, I'll be watching some riveting event of sportsmanship at the Olympics, and then suddenly CTV cuts to commercial, and I'm treated to an array of cartoonishly noble characters attired in soldierly red coat and womanly bonnet, circa Regency England, with platoons aiming bayonets at the American frenemy, and I'm like: WTF, federal government? Nobody cares about the War of 1812. It happened two centuries ago, before Tim Hortons and hockey. It doesn't matter.
Maybe if this were an ad promoting Canada's national parks (and their cool forts) I could understand the campaign. But instead it appears to be a lone ad, or public service message or whatever the hell it is, promoting the simple, inherent fact that we once had this war.
And they air it all the time. Which is the most baffling part, because companies usually do that when they're hammering home brand recognition. Are we meant to rush out and buy a Laura Secord action figure-that-no-one-is-selling? Or really what is the hoped-for objective? Are we meant to begin pridefully associating ourselves with the Battle of Lundy's Lane?
Raise your hand if you think that Canada's abiding sense of brand nationhood is based on British Red Coats winning a series of pitch battles in Upper and Lower Canada 55 years before we actually became a coast-to-coast confederation?
Do I see any waving fingers out there? Anyone? Surely someone is prepared to use the expression: "As Canadian as Mom, rhubarb pie and the War of 1812."
No, I'm going to presume not. Because here is what happened during that war (and may historians forgive me the dollar-store summary): In the late 18th-, early 19th-century, the Americans were still all fired up over their Revolution and throwing air punches at England when finally, under President Madison, they decided to press their luck against Britain's territorial holdings along the 49th Parallel.
A whole lot of wild-aimed shooting ensued, on battlefields so thick with gun smoke that frequently nobody knew who was who. It was bloody and arduous, and confused. After two years of lunging about and blowing up forts, the Americans essentially called out "My Bad!" and retreated to New York and Michigan.
Commerce and tourism almost immediately resumed.
I'm oversimplifying, but the point is that the tour guides in Niagara Falls after the war of 1812 were often the soldiers who'd fought in the war, and they would tell their tourists that either the Americans won a given battle or the British did -- depending upon the nationality of the tourist. This, I learned from one of the contemporary museum directors in the area, who apparently didn't get the memo about the fire of Canada's character being forged in this epic clash of nations.
If the war of 1812 was foundational for anything, it was for the future of Niagara Falls tourism. On the first centenary, in 1912, Laura Secord got turned into a chocolate.
Traditionally known south of the border as "The War America Forgot," 1812 is a chapter in our pre-history as a sovereign state. It can't be dusted off and used as the basis for a new, jingoistic identity.
Why, then, is our austerity-obsessed government blowing scads of cash on a weird, propagandistic TV campaign? During prime time Olympics coverage no less. Don't they realize we can just watch our amazing women's soccer team for free?