I have just been to see the new movie “Darkest Hour: about Churchill’s situation on the eve of World war II. I believe the JBO movie “The Gathering Storm” is actually a depiction of those times that I like better. In “The Gathering Storm,” Albert Finney seems like a stronger leader, despite being plagued by the “black dog” of depression, in part due to his being an unpopular political outcast. Gary Oldman, however, may more graphically depict Churchill’s depression and struggles with advancing age. He became Prime Minister in 1940, at the age of 65. In any case I would like to think of him as pugnacious, and one of the movies brings out that one term of endearment for him was “Mr. Pug,” and it shows him having a pug dog.
In any case, he was a great man. I think one of the essays that best captures his greatness was Isaiah Berlin’s essay, “Mr. Churchill” in The Atlantic in September 1949. My favorite line is, “[H]e saved the future by interpreting, the present in terms of a vision of the past.” Some more extended quotes from the article, which is as much about Churchill as historian as politician, follow:
Mr. Churchill’s dominant category, the single, central, organizing principle of his moral and intellectual universe, is an historical imagination so strong, so comprehensive, as to encase the whole of the present and the whole of the future in a framework of a rich and multicolored past. Such an approach is dominated by a desire—and a capacity—to find fixed moral and intellectual bearings to give shape and character, color and direction and coherence, to the stream of events….
[I]t was Mr. Churchill’s unique and unforgettable achievement that he created this necessary illusion within the framework of a free system without destroying or even twisting it; that he called forth spirits which did not stay to oppress and enslave the population after the hour of need had passed; that he saved the future by interpreting, the present in terms of a vision of the past which did not distort or inhibit the historical development of the British people by attempting to make them realize some impossible and unattainable splendor in the name of an imaginary tradition or of an infallible, supernatural leader.
Churchill was a man in touch with the grandeur and sweep of British history. It gave him the confidence to stand up against Hitler. But Churchill was a believer in the British Empire. He believed that if England was left alone in Europe standing against Hitler, the Empire would come to its aid, and to his thinking this Empire still included the United States, if only in some honorary status. He felt that he had to have, and would have, support from President Roosevelt and the United States.
In World War II, the world was being unified as Hitler and Japan brought other nations under their military control. Today the impulse seems to be in the opposite direction with centripetal forces breaking up existing political groups from the EU to the Middle East. While many government and leaders call for acceptance of more diversity, populations are rebelling against it on racial, religious, and nationalistic grounds.
People see Donald Trump as a leader of this resistance to greater diversity, but almost no one questions whether greater diversity is a social good. They say the US is a nation of immigrants. While the US has always accpeted immigrants, the number and type of immigrants has varied over the years. Going back to Columbus and the Pilgrims taking land from the Indians hundreds of years ago is not meaningful except as history. America had become a white country by the end of the 19th century, with a significant black minority and some Indians left on reservations. According to Wikipedia, in 1900, the US was about 88% white, 12% black, and less than 1% Indian and other races. There had been immigration during the 19th century, but it was almost entirely from white European countries. That pattern changed during the 20th century. By 2010 Hispanics made up nearly 20% of the US population, surpassing the black population, which remained steady at about 12%, while the white population fell to about 72%. America is changing from being a northern European country speaking English to a Latino country speaking Spanish.
What this means is that there is no shared history for a politician like Churchill to draw on. With diversity, everyone has a different history, different morals and ideals drawn from different religions and cultures. There are no common ties to draw the nation together. The Civil War split the US over one issue; today the US is split over multiple issues with little common worldview to address them.
If anything, the pundit talking heads on TV, radio and on op-ed pages characterize US history as evil, mainly because of slavery and lack of diversity. They imply that if America had been founded by blacks, Jews, and Hispanics it would be a much better country. They are still afraid to say it outright, but the pundits and historians no longer respect the “founding fathers,” Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, etc. The play “Hamilton” has been a success because it praises Hamilton as an immigrant who was the son of a whore, the kind of man the new establishment likes. Since he is a bastard and an immigrant, they forgive him for being white; it also helps that his role is played by a Hispanic. The biography that Lin-Manuel Miranda based the play on was written by Ron Chernow, a Jew who may well have instinctive, ethnic prejudices against white men like the founding fathers.
Into this mix we introduce Donald Trump. Trump could hardly be more different from the refined, polite Virginia plantation owners who were part of the group, or the educated lawyers from New England, although Trump may have more similarities to the immigrant Hamilton than today’s pundits would like to admit. Trump sees himself in the mold of Andrew Jackson, who while not a founding father, was an early, important President who put the US on the path it followed for over a century. While Trump avoided military service in Vietnam, he has shown himself brave in standing up to withering attacks, primarily from Jews working for CNN, NBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. His election has highlighted fractures in American society, mainly between whites who used to be an unassailable majority, and growing minorities led by Jews, blacks and Hispanics. There are a lot of non-Jewish whites who oppose Trump, but without the minorities, they would be a voice in the wilderness. Although Trump rails against the media and “fake news,” he does not identify it as Jewish, which it is in large part. He obviously knows this from his years in TV, but he has thrived in Jewish environments — first in Manhattan real estates, which is traditionally a Jewish fiefdom, then in TV, also an industry dominated by Jews. It looks like over the years he has beaten them at their own game and doesn’t fear them. The last bastion of defense against Trump by the liberals is the legal system, another profession dominated by Jews. The court system has blocked many of Trump’s proposals, mainly related to immigration, but it continues to grind in the background with the Mueller investigation. Mueller is not Jewish, but his boss at the Department of Justice, Rod Rosenstein, is.
Incidentally, I know Isaiah Berlin was Jewish, as was Einstein and many other great men, but that doesn’t mean that they should not be criticized when they are wrong.