Saturday, July 7, 2012

Historical Myths and Muskoka Chairs- and Heritage Canada

This weekend, while sitting on our Muskoka or Adirondack or Cape Cod chairs, (the ones that look uncomfortable but aren't)on  the lakefront porch of my sister in law's cottage outside of Ottawa, she turned to me and asked, "Why all this business about the War of 1812 lately?" She had found yet another bit on it in the local Perth rag.

"I can answer you that," I replied. "Heritage Canada very likely gave money for War of 1812 projects a couple of years ago."

I know I am right. I've been trying to promote my 100 year old story about the Nicholsons of Richmond, Quebec for many years.

When I first stumbled upon the Nicholson Family letters, in 2005, I mentioned my wonderful find to a highly ranked Civil Servant in the Heritage Department, who I met at a gathering for the Home and School.

I thought she might give me some encouragement at least. But she looked me blankly in the eye and muttered cryptically "Yes, you have a lot of work in front of you."

Heritage Canada, on its website, claims that it is "responsible for national policies that promote Canada content, foster cultural participation, active citizenship and participation in Canada's civic life  and strengthen connections among Canadians."

But because they are about the ONLY funder  of such programs, they also control the message - and the myth-making or myth-deravelling.  Methinks anyway. My opinion.

My personal Nicholson Project, School Marms and Suffragettes is an Anglo Quebec Project. I volunteered for a long time at English Quebec non-profits in the 1990's, and it was well known that Corporations wouldn't touch any of us with a ten foot pole. Even the no-brainer field of literacy is often too politically charged. (Of course, now they touch no one but the glorious Jo-Wilfrid Tsongas and Miss Sharapovas.)

Anyway, this morning Andrew Coyne's article in the National Post caught my eye. It was about the current US/Canada rift. As Coyne pointed out, many pundits lately have written about how the current US administration has forsaken Canada. Coyne claims it could be argued that Canada has 'broken off' from the US.

I think this is why there's been a policy of promoting the War of 1812.  It is a war against the Americans after all.

My Canada Then and Now (the text I used at school in the 1960's) says "The war went on for nearly three years. The Americans burned York (Toronto) and the British burned Washington. The Americans won most of  the naval battles on the lakes, the British, assisted by the Canadians, won most of the battles on line. ...

A treaty was signed on Christmas Eve 1814. From that day to this Canada and the United States have been a peace with each other."

Until now I guess :)

That same textbook, used across Canada, doesn't have ONE women character between its pages. Not even Laura Secord, the 'famous' heroine of the War of 1812. Imagine that!  Women didn't exist in history according to my education, which is probably why I have worked so hard on my Tighsolas Project.

 I found  a Master's Thesis by Dorothy Williams, a specialist in Canadian Black History, who understands very well, I imagine, how the Powers That Be control the message, since her area of expertise was once largely ignored or 'perverted.'

Her Thesis was on the Jackie Robinson Myth. Williams discusses Myth and Historical Memory in her prologue.

As a baseball fan, who grew up with the Expos and Dave Van Horne's commentary, I am well-versed in that myth, that supports a belief that Canada Blacks were better treated than American Blacks. I can actually hear Van Horne say ...In Montreal with Robinson and the Royals "it was the first time a Black man was chased down the street out of love and not hate."

My story School Marms and Suffragettes doesn't upset the apple cart too much. The story of three young women in the 1910 era, fits into many of the socially-sanctioned areas of discussion.

 It's about 'feminist' women, after all.  Indeed, I found that the topics covered in my School Marms and Suffragettes story fit the Ontario Social Studies curriculum like the proverbial glove.

Except perhaps for eugenics...A topic I could have left well alone if I had wanted to. But I felt that the world-view of these women must have been tainted by the discussion of eugenics going on at the time. They never mentioned the topic in their letters, as they did the suffragettes, for instance...but they were Presbyterians, and 'good Presbyterians' as they often remarked. And from what I read about the Presbyterian Powers that Be of the times, well, it wasn't pretty. Not if you think of Canada as a tolerant multi-cultural place. Hence the historical 'cover up.'

(Canadian historians feel they have covered the ugly topic of eugenics enough in their scholarship. (I read that somewhere.) But that's not what counts. It is how the myths filter down to the average person that counts. The average person who, supposedly, in a democracy, is supposed to be able to think critically about social issues - and you can't do that unless you understand the TRUTH about the past.)

Anyway, I have ebooks and  the Internet at my disposal and, as it stands, people from China, Germany, the US and other parts of Canada download my School Marms and Suffragettes story. Lots of people from China lately. Maybe they are trying to decipher the Canadian psyche...I also have included a sub plot about Opium in my story Diary of a Confirmed Spinster. In 1910, opium was illegal in the US for everyone, but in Canada only for Chinese. For a year. That fact figures largely in my story.