Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The 1812 Project

One of the little visual things that changed in Maryland while we were in China this summer was the introduction of new license plates commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. Recognizing Maryland's seminal role in the war with Britain, so soon after independence was gained, these license plates have inspired us to take on a new family project. Our aim over the next couple of years (the war lasted until 1814, I believe, so we have some time) is to visit a few of the places that figured in the battles that were fought in Baltimore and Washington, DC.

First up on our little tour? A visit to Fort McHenry, the place where the battle that inspired the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner was fought. We all have been to Fort McHenry a number of times over the years, but it has been a while, so we all thought the Julie and Z would get a lot more out of it now that they are "conscious" (as Z likes to put it). As for Desi and I, we "ain't that young any more," so repeat visits (plus writing blog posts) are essential for searing things into our memories.

It was pretty interesting to visualize British soldiers marching and sailing freely through American territory. I'm thinking the War of 1812 must have been the last time anything like that happened. (I'm not speaking of attacks like Pearl Harbor and September 11, 2001.)

Also interesting was the contrast between how Americans and Chinese today view 19th century British incursions onto their respective soils. I've posted before on how so many Chinese view the sacking of Yuanmingyuan as a national humiliation that persists until today. In contrast, there don't seem to be any detectable such feelings on the part of the typical American about the burning of the president's house. Are the Chinese long overdue in moving on past this "us versus them" mentality? Or are Americans way too ignorant when it comes to their own history?

~Steve

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