I finished listening to Jill Baird’s terrific biography of Queen Victoria on Audible last week. Baird mentioned one of those offbeat moments in history that left me thinking: “Did I know about this?”
It didn’t sound familiar. But how could I have missed it?
Baird touched briefly on the story of Americans invading Canada. Notice I said “Americans” as opposed to “America.”
Not the U.S. government, but a group of Irish-Americans, the Fenians, literally invaded Canada to try to seize territory from the British.
The Irish, of course, blamed the British for the infamous Potato Famine and wanted self-rule for Ireland.
Attacking England wouldn’t work so well, but they figured they could strike back at the British in Canada and make some inroads there.
In five separate raids between 1866 and 1871, one involving as many as 1,300 armed men, the Fenians attacked Canadian outposts. All five attempts failed, and the British drove the invaders back.
This once again proves that truth is stranger than fiction. These raids preceded the fictional cinematic version of Americans invading Canada — “Canadian Bacon” starring Alan Alda — by 120 years.
Friday’s column mentioned how even the younger generation is familiar with music of the 1960s. I wonder if they recognize “Gallant Men.”
“Gallant Men” was a Top 40 hit in 1967 for the gravel-voiced Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Illinois.
Dirksen speaks — with martial drums providing a backbeat — about the brave warriors who gave their lives for America.
Bob Greene just wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal about Dirksen’s foray into the entertainment world. At the time, Dirksen, 71, was the oldest performer to crack the Top 40.
The song was written years earlier by Charles Wood, Greene writes, who was later known by his given name, Charles Osgood, the former longtime popular CBS Morning News anchor.
Despite his hit song, Dirksen is probably best known for his quote about government spending: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”
He was extremely quotable, also saying: “I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.”
And: “When a member of the House moves over to the Senate, he raises the IQ of both bodies.”
I don’t think they allow humorous, colorful people in politics anymore.
Speaking of Bob Greene, I hadn’t seen any columns by him in years until I spotted the Dirksen piece in the Wall Street Journal.
Greene enjoyed an amazing career as a columnist and author until the early 2000s when he threw it all away and the Chicago Tribune fired him.
It turned out that the married columnist with the homespun style abused his position to hit on young women, one of whom was still in high school.
Now it appears Greene has done his time and his name can once again appear in print.
It raises the questions again about what we’re seeing so often today. People resign for #MeToo moments or something racial, either from the present or the distant past.
It is not clear who makes the rules, though. Are you banished for life for blackface or for an unwanted advance? Are there any mitigating circumstances?
Can you come back from a racist, misogynist or homophobic comment? If so, when? If not, what do you do for the rest of your life?
I am not saying there shouldn’t be dire consequences for bad behavior. It just seems the standards are all over the place. There’s no consistency.
Best advice: Don’t say or do anything you wouldn’t want to read about on the front page of the newspaper.
William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
As is often the case, truth proved stranger than fiction on the northern border.