The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Another Churchill Book?

I can't imagine any twentieth-century statesman who's been the subject of more books than Winston Churchill. Scrolling through the results of a quick Amazon search will keep you busy for hours. I've probably read at least a dozen of the popular and not-so-popular Churchill biographies and more than a few of the fifty-plus books he authored, so I really didn't think the world needed another book on the man. And then, quite accidentally, I stumbled on a review of a book written by Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College. The rather long title of Arnn's book -- Churchill's Trial: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government -- sums up its contents well. Published late last year, the book focuses on Churchill's lifelong battles with the enemies of free, constitutional government. 

Churchill battled Hitler and his Nazis, the Soviet communism of Stalin and his brutal successors, and the West's foolish and ongoing dalliance with so-called democratic socialism. Churchill realized that democratic socialism would inevitably evolve into a form of authoritarianism that renounced both democracy or the rule of law. He witnessed the beginnings of this downward slide in his own nation just as we are witnesses to it in the United States today. Churchill didn't hesitate to share what he thought of socialism and socialists. In 1945, addressing the House of Commons, he said:
"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."
And then, in a 1948 speech in Perth, Australia, he said:
"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy."

Churchill failed in life as often as he succeeded, perhaps more often, but one gets the sense that he saw failure as just another path to eventual success. 

He saw himself as a man with a mission, a sacred mission not just to save his nation but to save Western civilization from the evils that surrounded it. This motivated him to persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.This attitude shines through in his "finest hour" speech, delivered on June 18, 1940 in the House of Commons. He concluded his address with these words:
"Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"
During World War Two he was able to infect the British people with this same determination. He moved them to dig deeply into their national soul and respond to evil with an almost superhuman degree of courage and grit. Imagine hearing these words in June 1940, when things looked darkest:
"We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."
He certainly had a way with words, didn't he? But perhaps his most famous words were heard on May 13, 1940 when he gave his first speech as Prime Minister before the House of Commons:
"I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: 'I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.' We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival."
Below I've included an audio recording of portions of this and another speech. I hope you enjoy them.

Read Larry Arnn's book and come to know why so many consider Winston Churchill the greatest statesman of modern times.

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