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Darkest Hour

Dikkon Eberhart

I used to publish politically oriented posts. During the past several years, I’ve forsaken them in favor of posts that fall instead under one or another of the general topics GOD, LIFE, and WRITING.

This one is political, and it falls under LIFE. Life includes the political, especially when the point of the post is supported by ancient wisdom.

And especially when the point of the post is supported by Santayana, when he said "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." Not such ancient wisdom perhaps -- 1905 -- but relevant in 2022 with Putin invading Ukraine.

Have you seen the movie “Darkest Hour?” If you have not, please do. Amazon Prime.

Perhaps you have heard about it even if you have not seen it. It is a Winston Churchill biopic, directed by Joe Wright and starring Gary Oldman among others.

The movie covers one month, early May through early June, 1940. In early May, both France and Belgium fall to the German Nazi attack. With much of the British government disenchanted by the leadership of Neville Chamberlain, who favors appeasing Hitler, Churchill is brought out of relative obscurity—he is disliked and maligned as a Conservative—and he is presented to King Edward VI.

The King, with teeth clenched, asks Churchill to form a government, as Prime Minister. Churchill agrees, and, as they say, the rest is history.

In early June, the Miracle of Dunkirk occurs, and the movie ends. But, historically, that’s the beginning of many, many dark hours.

Why should you see this movie?

First of all, it is brilliantly done, in terms of acting, directing, set design, makeup, cinematography, and script.

Second of all, it happened (not all of it: the scene in the Underground did not occur in actuality.)

Third of all, its event begins an historical triumph of freedom and of western decency as a Christian culture over Axis tyranny. I believe we MUST remember and embrace this history, or else we may go through the same darkest hour all over again.

Churchill set in motion the wavering hearts of the British public and galvanized his government to resist the Axis. Hitler was poised to invade Britain. In order to soften the country for his invasion, Hitler sent his air force to bomb London, particularly, and other locations, so the British would crumble before his army when it waded ashore. This began the Battle of Britain, an air war that stirred the hearts of the Allied world.

Equally stirring of the hearts of the western world is the present ferocious resistance of the Ukrainians against the invading army of tyrant Putin.

Here’s a snapshot--

Thursday, August 15, 1940 ... seventy-one days after Dunkirk and after the conclusion of the movie.

Blue skies over Britain.

Never before have more sorties of German bombers been flown against the battered democracy in Britain than Hitler sends that day.

Luftflotte 5 strikes northern England from its base in Norway. Luftflotten 2 and 3 hurl themselves once again across the Channel. It is high tide in the Battle of Britain, and Hitler’s invasion itself is only moments away. Britain is virtually bankrupt.

Despite the evacuation of 338,226 troops from France—the Miracle of Dunkirk—Britain's army is toothless, nearly all of its weapons abandoned on the French shoreline.

Hitler owns Europe. His U-boats own the North Atlantic. The RAF is stretched too thin: every fighting plane—every spitfire and hurricane—is airborne. There are no reserves at all. The War Cabinet calculates that “pilot wastage” is running at a rate of 746 men per month, way more than are being trained.

When asked for his war plan, Churchill replies, “My plan is we survive the next three weeks.”

The question then, possibly the question which might emerge nowadays: Will the democracies consent to their own survival?

A secret warrior, code named Intrepid, is even at that moment negotiating with President Roosevelt for the loan of 50 rusty, outmoded destroyers…anything, in fact, that might stem the tide. He’s the one who phrased the question above. Will the democracies consent to their own survival?

Three hundred twenty-four years before this, Shakespeare died. Here’s another way to ask that same question. Will the democracies be Hamlet, or Horatio? Will they dither and muse? Or will they—as bluff soldiers do—march across a stage strewn with the corpses of the better-notters…and survive?

Roosevelt can do nothing openly to help. The dithering American public will not allow it. This conflict on the far side of the world is not theirs.

Only twenty years before, they consented to pull Europe’s chestnuts out of the fire, and what good has that done? Now three massive tyrannies are spreading like cancers across the other side of the world--Hitler’s, Mussolini’s, Tojo’s—the capitalist system seems to be in ruins. If there is any hope during this bloody 20th century, it must be in the Soviet Socialist worker’s paradise.

(Of course a few eggs need to be broken to make an omelet, but Stalin should be given a tolerant pass concerning his breaking of both eggs and people.)

The question then, the question now: Will the democracies consent to their own survival?

That which is great is also that which is miserable. The greatest single idea of democracy is that the people rule; they have their say. The greatest single weakness of democracy is that, while the people are saying—on and on—the gray ideas will ensnare them, and they won’t see the black and the white.

What is the case today, in 2022? Hitler wrote Mien Kampf: he told the democracies what he planned to do, in advance.

Today, in Iran, in North Korea, and elsewhere, tyrants almost daily tell us what they plan to do, in advance.

One of those tyrants today is Putin, who has told the West what he plans to do, in advance.

Will the democracies consent to their own survival?

It takes a mighty provocation for a democracy to fight and especially to fight to the death. Tyrants always get the upper hand right away quick: they don’t hold back. But the democracies cry, “Wait! Wait! Let’s talk. Surely, surely, we can talk this problem through.”

It’s what tyrants count on; it gives them time.

Which they need…because there’s this other thing about the democracies. As Victor Davis Hansen has pointed out, when the democracies are finally put to it, when they finally perceive the choice to be either black or white, at long last, free men and women stand up to be counted, and then the tyrants are toast.

Ancient wisdom.

Churchill, evening, August 15, 1940.

The Battle of Britain lasted through mid-September, but this day was the end of its last, worst days—before little Britain and her spitfire pilots banished the massive German air force from its skies:

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

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