Tuesday, November 04, 2008

These Men Died For Nothing: When Artists Rewrite History And Peddle It

We're reliably informed by the National Post that an artist and writer named David Coupland did up this masterpiece as a reminder that Canada maybe won the war of 1812. It is said that this edifice, made of styrofoam, resin and rebar, cost $500,000 and was commissioned by something called Malibu Investments as part of its public art contribution to a condominium project.

The sculpture depicts a toy British grenadier standing over a fallen toy soldier that is presumably an American soldier.

Hizzoner the Deppity Mayor of York, Mr. Pantaleone, said it was a general statement about the nature of war and presumably not meant as an offense. 

However, Mr. Coupland said "I wanted to come up with an elegant and simple way of saying, no, the British won." Apparently this is taught to kiddies in primary schools all across our neighbor to the North.

People laughed out loud as the sculpture was unveiled.

Seeing as Mr. Coupland is pretty well thought of as far as his literary efforts we took a look and found that he's not above appropriating titles for books that he publishes, that have already been used, to wit, City of Glass which was published by Paul Auster back in 1985, or it could have been Stan Kenton's album "City of Glass" which was released in 1951. I presume that both are still copyrighted-but nevermind.

How's his history?

The US improvidently declared war against Great Britain on June 18, 1812. The British took Detroit. The British blockaded the United States. The U.S. Navy did better, acquitting itself passably well against a more substantial opponent. The British burned public buildings in Washington, D.C.  The British invaded northern New York but retreated after the British fleet on Lake Champlain was destroyed. 

A peace treaty was signed. 

After the treaty was signed but before the news got around, a ragtag American army made up of equal parts negro freemen, French outlaws, mountaineers from Appalachia and regular army soldiers proceeded to administer an old fashioned ass whuppin' with all the trimmings to Pakenham's British regulars at New Orleans. 

The British lost 2000 killed and wounded plus several hundred were taken prisoner, for the loss of 8 Americans killed and 13 wounded.

And what about the battle at York? The Americans took the town, the British regulars abandoned the local militia, fires were set, people behaved themselves badly all around and the Americans took things that did not belong to them.

Does any of this sound like a win to you?

And was it worth $500,000?  

In the interests of historical accuracy, the cause of international amity, friendship and peace might have been better served by a simple monument with the names of the war dead and a large sign that says in letters of fire:


These brave men who died in the service of a lousy cause were not toy soldiers. 

They were real people who bleed and puke and soil themselves because they're scared. 

Depicting them as toy soldiers does a disservice to their names, regardless of who "won".

Photo credit National Post.


At 2:01 PM, Blogger Robert Luedeman, attorney at law said...

I think there may have been a comment here from some young fellow who sounds like Ned from New York....anyway. I do not think that Herr Coupland was portraying soldiers as toys to symbolize the general wretchedness of war or their disposable nature-all of which are true.
Instead, he was catering to Canada's guilty pleasure of having (so they think)smacked down the hated yanquis-which, it seems is acceptable there being that they're up there and we're down here and gravity being what it is piss will flow downhill.

This is taught in primary schools all across the Canadian landscape, so 'tis said, and it's countered by what's taught about the battle of N'Wawlins which happened after the war ended.

Everyone behaved badly, and nothing much was resolved, I fear.

So let's do this. We all won. Let's have a parade, and let's remember all the men-Americanos, British soldiers, Canadian irregulars, native Americans who ended up as catspaws in the Great Game between Britain and France, let's remember them all for what they were-young men who gave the last full measure of devotion for a truly lousy cause.


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