This Christmas Season has had a subtext of World Wars about it for Claudia and me. I just finished reading the fabulous “Last Hope Island” out loud to Claudia and am half way through “Last of the Doughboys.”
We have both been working on French lessons on the app Duolingo . Given six or seven months of serious study perhaps we will be able to navigate through the two war’s French battlefields as something other than clueless “ugly Americans.” On Friday we watched two recent movies on the subject which had been getting good reviews. First, at Zinema, we watched “Darkest Hour” about the month of transition between the Chamberlain Prime ministership and Winston Churchill’s elevation. Its been dinged for historical inaccuracy but it was a pretty gripping film for me. I made a point of looking up the criticisms so as to winnow out some of the unhelpful theatricality. Watching it meant that I was more determined than ever to see Dunkirk and we watched it through live streaming. I’m sorry to say I found the latter movie quiet and disappointing. It was filmed with thousands when nearly half a million were involved and it delivered no sense of scale that honored its importance.
I’ll say this about Churchill and it relates to my earlier post on Character. Churchill was an outcast in his political party. Hell, he kept switching back and forth between political parties which made him suspect everywhere. To say that quality appeals to me is an understatement. Loyalty to party over principal holds no appeal to me. I’m drawn to folks like Winston and Abraham who also threaded his way to a new political landscape by blending political loyalty to a cause greater than party.
What Churchill stood for in his Conservative party that had been determined to stay out of war was the recognition that Hitler was such a great threat to Britain and the World that all the talk of peace was by far a greater danger. Dunkirk, however disappointing the recent movie, gave his early leadership a much needed boost and, perhaps saved us all from a grim authoritarian future.
(I feel much the same way about Donald Trump who has made ignorance rather than Arianism his chief goal with global environmental collapse one of his many likely future achievements)
Claudia and I added one more war movie to our watched list on Christmas Eve. It was the 2006 movie, Joyeux Noël, about the 1914 outbreak of Christmas in the trenches of the four-month old World War 1. (When my grandsons are older I’d like them to watch it.0 Its based on real events and the conclusion is damning. The very same sorts of folks who today are reaching back to a past they felt they could control had to deal severely with the men who accidentally allowed the Christmas spirit to overtake them in the trenches. In the true spirit of “let no good deed go unpunished” the soldiers who crossed no man’s land for a moment of ill considered humanity were sent off to become sausage on the Eastern Front, and Verdun in order to wipe the memory of human decency from the battlefront. That kind of contamination just couldn’t be tolerated. All over the world today there seems to be a rebirth of a similar intolerance today. You have no farther to look than at our own White House.