The New War of 1812

Today is the 200th birthday of the War of 1812. I wasn’t quite sure what to buy it, I mean, what do you get for something that’s 200 years old? A sweatshirt that reads “200 Years Young!” (never)

I’m not sure if this is the official day the United States decided to kick some British fanny. Why are British readers laughing? We kicked some fanny all day long and then we discovered Utah.


Let me be upfront about something: I don’t know fanny about the War of 1812, and in this case I’m using the British meaning for fanny. Many of us US of Aers are in this know-nothing boat. We get all apple-piey over the Revolutionary War, and some of us even dress up as Union and Confederate soldiers and reenact significant battles of the U.S. Civil War and then go home and watch our flatscreen TVs just like Ulysses S. Grant.

But the War of 1812? Borrriinnggggggggg.

Why is it so boring?

I don’t know because I don’t know anything about it. And it’s almost as if my brain steadfastly refuses to retain information about it because it spends too much time trying to track down car keys.

NPR devoted a whole hour to it. Some Canadian guy called and was saying how important it was for Canada, and for the life me, I cannot tell you why. It’s like when he started to talk, my brain heard “Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”. The war also did … something important and launched somebody big to the White House, and people were like “damn” or “tally-ho” which is more representative of the American-speak of that time. Dolly Madison made her first snack cakes and saved a portrait of George Washington because she was totally into him, and that pissed off James Madison like you wouldn’t believe. The British stole some American sailors, and we liked France so much that Congress passed a resolution naming the fried potatoes in the Capitol cafeteria “French Fries.”

Some of this may not have happened.

I think the main problem is the lack of a hook. You know how the Revolutionary War had all that bedazzle? People were throwing tea into the river and people were yelling really cool stuff like “Give me liberty, yo” and it was all about Freedomy™ freedom.

The War of 1812 had to do with something about trade restrictions, according to the first few sentences of Wikipedia, and then I just tuned out the rest. No hook to rest my brain cap:

But isn’t America all about reinventing itself, and its people about picking and choosing events from history to support their worldview?

Hellz yesz, says all those people who believe the founding fathers wanted the Bible to be our constitution.

So can’t we twinge the War of 1812 and make it a little more spectacular? Like instead of *yawn* trade restrictions, can’t it be something like British Admiral Fitzsimmons Jackhole kidnapped Uncle Sam right before he was about to marry Betsy Ross. And then James Madison got together a super-fighting squad of former rebels and they flew on bald eagles over to Europe and just annihilated the feces outta of em, incidentally with eagle feces. And then Lee Greenwood’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather wrote “Proud to be an eagle-flying American”. Or something

And then on the anniversary, we can unite as Americans by getting drunk as #$!%$ and wearing synthetic eagle feathers made in China.

That is a hook.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic?

Well, maybe not for everyone.


  1. Wait. You mean this is the 200th anniversary? How come I missed this? Does that add up? Me, I celebrate that war all the time. I don’t know any more about it, but hey, why not? The other wars are all taken.

  2. You at your batshit best!
    By the way, I minored in History, and I don’t know crap about the War of 1812. It’s the Bobby Rydell in the Frankie Avalon of Wars.

    1. Thank you. Perfect characterization of the war, by the way.

      I majored in history and I don’t know crap about crap about the War of 1812.

  3. This cracked me up, Speaker. I am currently watching The Tudors via Netflix. What does that mean? It means, I am well versed in the history of Henry VIII. Well, OK – maybe not. But, he sure did seem to sleep with tons of women. Maybe the War of 1812 was due to the Brits sleeping with so many women. Think that was it? Meh. Maybe not.
    By the way – where did you get the picture of my Uncle? He loves dress up day.

  4. I think you have to be Canadian to appreciate the War of 1812. If you grew up anywhere in the Niagara Peninsula it was all part of your heritage and you appreciated it. Americans get all apple-piey over your civil war and we Canadians get all maple-syrupy over the War of 1812. After all, if it wasn’t for the War of 1812 we would just be another state in the US of A. Now, I know a good number of American folk just said, “What do you mean? I thought Canada was just another state…”. My apologies for the awakening.

      1. Pretty sure…just a sec I will check my passport…yep, Canada is not a state…not since the war of 1812…sorry to be the one to break it to you. 😉

    1. Y’know, if you need someone to give you a reason to jazz this up, you probably need someone with a history background.

      And that’s me cue with a drumroll…

      The thing you got to remember about the War of 1812 is this: We were a sideshow.

      Honest, the British were annoyed as all hell that we had to get all whiny on them; they were too busy getting engaged on the continent (which the Brits just *hate* doing) because Napoleon was busy unifying the rest of Europe in ways it hadn’t seen before and would not see again until the days of Adolf Hitler. Both of whom, BTW, bringing about a pan-European ideal with a lot less pain for everyone than Angela Merkel did…

      Things got so bad as the British saw it, with Napoleon marching on Russia (which gave us the “1812 Overture” we play for another excuse to have our fireworks in the summer other than July 4th) and his brothers on different European thrones, having more games with these thrones than George R R Martin could come up with, that they felt compelled to do something. Like closing down the sea around the continent to starve the Corsican so-n-so out and keep him from his colonies overseas, which the Brits were taking for themselves. (The British adventure in India, spawning all the Kipling you read? That gets started right now out of this…)

      And because we didn’t want to starve Nappy, we just wanted his damn money, we got upset with the Brits when they told us not to trade with him. How could we stop trading with Napoleon, anyway? After that sweetheart deal, three cents an acre for Louisiana, how could we walk away from a fool and his money like that?

      So the British, too busy trying to deal with Napoleon and building an empire in Asia, looked at us and our declaration of war, went “Oh bollix! Hang it all!” and tried to fight a tiny war on the side just to get us the hell off their backs while the real action occurred to the east of Greenwich. Because let’s face it: If the Duke of Wellington hadn’t been dealing with Jerome in Spain in 1812 (saving his fight with Napoleon himself until three years later at Waterloo), but had the duty of leading the Chesapeake Campaign himself, the action where the White House got torched in retaliation for burning Toronto (insert “burnt Toronto” joke here…) would have been far, far graver for the US. At the very least, the English would not have lost a favorite drinking song to become our national anthem…

      Because it was a war fought by the Brits with limited attention against a country with limited ability, it could have qualified as three years of material for Jon Stewart at his best. What everyone got out of it were at best booby prizes; we got a few victories and a future president, the Canadians got a sense of identity, and the Brits proved they could multitask by dealing with us at little cost and still beat the French. Everybody wins!

      Except for Napoleon and the Indians, but, well, hey…

      1. Well, I for one appreciate my Canadian sense of identity, booby prize or not. Thanks for the history lesson. I don’t think I shall ever see things the same again 😉 . Now I have to follow your avatar to see if you have a blog for me to follow as I found this quite entertaining.

      2. So just to be clear Napoleon is a real person not just a yummy dessert?
        Seriously thank you for the explanation. Much, much better–a billion times better–than Wikipedia. I think my brain actually absorb something and I will no longer look like a deer in headlights when someone brings up the War of 1812. Not that that happens a lot. But it could and now I will have the appearance of intelligence.

  5. *tellmeaboutit* my history-war-buff-partner tivoed a 4 hour long marathon documentary on 1812 and I made the mistake of making some sort of snarky comment which ended in me getting a history lecture…and I still know fanny/vagina/vulva about it. I like your history lectures much better.

  6. I heard this covered on NPR on my way to work — I didn’t realize it was an hour-long segment though. Good grief! I wish I knew what the NPR segment talked about so I could chime in with something intelligent but, as you guessed, I completely tuned it out when I heard “War of 1812.” Did people actually die in it — or was it like one of those recreational wars?

    1. I have no idea. Did it last longer than one day? Beats me. I could look it up, but by the time I made my way back to this comment, I would have forgotten what i researched. It’s like I got my brain zapped by the Men in Black when it comes to War of 1812.

      1. And yet I remember that President Taft was so large he got stuck in a bathtub and President Cleveland fathered an illegitimate kid. I guess I prefer the Today show version of history.

  7. “Freedomy™” isn’t a portmanteau for Freedom and sodomy is it? If so, I want no part of it.
    (But only because I’m already a member of a book club for “History Buffs With Alternative Lifestyles.”)

    1. I don’t know what portmanteau means, but that won’t stop me from answering your question. And I answer thusly: Yes, a thousand times yes. Or no, a thousand times no. Was portmanteau the name of a famous port where some famous War of 1812 battle was fought?

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