June 25, 2013

Finest Hour 135, Summer 2007

Page 4

Despatch Box


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To the Prime Minister, Ottawa:

As one of the original members of the fund-raising team that solicited $8 million to open the Juno Beach Centre, I send my sincere thanks to you and your government for the recent commitment of additional funding. As President of the International Churchill Society, Canada, I attended a tour of the Normandy beaches with Sir Winston’s daughter Lady Soames (née Mary Churchill), in October 2004. I was never so proud to be a Canadian as when this multinational group toured this “piece of Canada.” Like many, I had a father and grandfather who fought there. Everyone in our party was complimentary on the content and focus of Canada’s wartime contribution as depicted in the Juno Beach Centre. Please know that there are many Canadians who applaud your initiative.


How enjoyable was Geoffrey Fletcher’s two-part article, “Spencer Churchill (p) at Harrow” (FH 133-34). Having visited the school on the wonderful Churchill tour organized by The Churchill Centre last year, I could much more easily envision the scenes he recreated and appreciate the environment he describes. The part about Mrs. Everest is particularly touching, and so like Churchill. The tour party visited Mrs. Everest’s grave last year, and laid a wreath on it—very appropriate.

• I’m glad you enjoyed my piece. Some years ago ICS (UK) held our AGM at the school and I met fellow Churchillians from the United States who were in England and were welcome guests. The conversation turned to the public (private) school system in the UK which for many years produced most senior politicians and civil servants. Churchill had four Old Harrovians in his 1940 Cabinet: L.S. Amery, J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon, D. Margesson and G. Lloyd. This gave me the idea for the article. Churchill’s schooldays in my opinion forged his character, particularly between 1888 and 1892, but have not been fully researched. I am not an Old Harrovian but I was at a similar school; times had not changed very much in my time! —GJF


An author’s note to “Like Goldfish in a Bowl” (FH 134: 33) quotes me as saying I helped a “dead drunk” Churchill and Eden home after a long dinner with the Russians at Teheran. Let me please correct that: to me “dead drunk” means horizontal. Sir Winston was not so far along as that. He was still walking, just…so much that I put my arm within his to hold him steady and had a corporal do the same to Mr. Eden. Thus they were able to walk straight and upright to the British Consulate. Indeed they need not have walked, because a limousine had been provided, but they decided to do so because it was a fine, clear night.

“Inside the Journals” on the next page accurately describes Stalin’s custom of multiple toasts, which he always performed while remaining firmly sober himself. WSC and Eden were thus affected on that occasion, but were yet able to walk home in true British fashion after a heavy night, talking loudly but not singing, and living to fight another day!

• Mr. Mander’s adventures, written through an interview by Susan Kidder, are coming up in a future issue. —Ed.


On the back cover of FH 134, the seaman in the pool with his telescope on Churchill is more likely Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, who at the time was retired from the Navy and serving as Conservative MP for Portsmouth. He was a frequent critic in Parliament of Liberal naval administration under Churchill. (A drawing in Punch for 1 November 1911 depicts Haldane, the outgoing First Lord of the Admiralty, saying to his successor: “And you can handle Beresford,” acknowledging his thorn-in-the-side status.) The drawing may have been influenced by the 1912 Olympic games in Stockholm, which ran 5 May to 22 July.

• See corrections on this issue’s back cover. Photos of Beresford and Bridgeman suggest that either would fit the cartoon, but we believe you are correct, in that all the other figures are political, and Bridgeman was not. I probably put two and two together and made five when I assumed that a uniformed admiral was the First Sea Lord. Many thanks for the context: the concurrent Olympics was undoubtedly the inspiration for the cartoon. —PHC


I liked and agreed with your two rants in 133, on “political agitators” (p. 4) and our lovely language (46). Even though you’re full of old prunes on the Baltics and our boy, your rants are spot on.

• Prof. Kimball refers to the editor’s article, “Churchill and the Baltics,” FH 53 and 54 (see http://xrl.us/wqqu). He has a long memory. —Ed.

Your essay on page 46 was beautiful. Everyone over 15 should be required to read it. “Issues” isn’t the only silly substitute for “problems.” There is also “challenges,” which drives me particularly mad….

Delighted to read your gripe about “issues.” It’s been bugging me for years and I thought I was alone. Well, now there are at least two of us. Perhaps we can make an issue of it?

I have read with approval your essay on the subject of “Issues.”

Why should you be so exercised by newspeak like “issues”? After all, we’ve witnessed the breakdown of the family, the withering of liberal-arts education, the constriction of economic freedom, the corrosion of aesthetic standards, soaring crime rates, drug addiction and the collapse of music— and you’re worried by the rotting of the language? One thing at a time!

I have the deepest respect for the editor for his singular contribution to The Churchill Centre and exemplary editorship of Finest Hour. But as a “secular humanist” I must disagree with the blame he spreads on us for problems that really originate in the far left wing.

I would agree that many so-called secular humanists are indeed leftists, and with whom I have disagreements. But the essence of the secular humanist’s worldview is scientific naturalism, along with the notion that moral and ethical codes can be based on reason and logic as opposed to the supernatural (e.g., be good or you will rot in Hell).

It is important to keep a distinction between politics and world view. Just as there is no direct equivalence between “conservative” and “evangelical Christian,” there is none between “secular humanist” and “liberal.”

Michelle Phillips’ Londonistan discusses the appalling failure of the Labour government of Tony Blair and the Church of England to contain the threat of Muslim extremism in the UK. This is not a failure of secular humanism, but a failure of political liberalism.

Aside from this “issue” I heartily agree with the rest of the essay.

• If I had it to write it again, Greg, I would drop the label “secular humanist” which, like all labels, can be misconstrued, and misapplied. —Ed.

The piece on “Issues” was some of your best stuff, reminding me of the night in the Lochober’s Restaurant in Boston, when we had “issues” with a bottle of corked wine, and the waiter responded that we had “not ordered the best stuff.” Please speed this piece to the website so that it reaches a larger audience than the privileged few thousand of Finest Hour. It deserves more.

Let me join any line forming to shake your hand and offer praise for that editorial. It needed to be said and was said well. I do think the occasional infinitive needs to be split, but this is a subject on which people of good will may differ.

I have had issues with “issues” for some time now. The horrible misuse of language today is a problem for me. Your views on what Churchill meant by “Christian civilization,” and on “we” vs. “they,” PC filters and split infinitives, were insightful, enjoyable and reassuring. Until reading it I had quite a sense of isolation on these matters.

You succinctly reflect my sentiments on this overused, misapplied and increasingly irrelevant word. Its use, together with the flood of revisionist notions parading as historical fact, are a constant, deplorable presence in today’s world. Thank you for your thoughtful and entertaining piece.

My attention was grabbed by the juxtaposition of quotes from Churchill and Bill O’Reilly. Clearly this was an essay demanding to be read. You propose that “the campaign to eradicate the traditional values and mores of Western Civilization is ceaseless.” Who are conspiring in this “campaign”? The “secular humanists.” Who are they? Those “who would have us believe that the Western democracies are no better than Nazis, Soviets, or Islamofascists.”

This is a conspicuous example of the fallacy of the straw man, a tactic much practiced by Mr. O’Reilly: Take the most extreme loonies on the left and then hold them up as representative of all who may have liberal >> sympathies. Whether it reflects cynical strategy or intellectual lassitude, it does a disservice to all who strive to understand and respect one another.

I know personally a number of secular humanists. None of them “would have us believe” anything of the sort. To the contrary, they cherish their country and its founding principles and actually take great delight in its history and know it quite well, indeed better than most. They are also proud of the artistic and scientific achievements its freedoms have fostered and the beneficent effect it has had on the world at large.

But they also recognize that its history is not spotless. Especially of late. And for that reason, they find it more creditable to direct their energies toward making it better rather than crowing about it. Besides that, they’re uncomfortable flaunting their happy circumstances before a world where few are as fortunate as they.

Although secular humanists may have trouble distinguishing religious belief from superstition, that does not mean they do not esteem the traditions of their culture nor embrace its ethics. They see themselves very much in step with the “Man of the 20th Century,” who, as Paul Addison wrote, “substituted a secular belief in historical progress…[f]or orthodox religion.”

They also tend to think that the bugaboo of “P.C. filters” has done considerably less violence to the language and to the culture’s traditions and history than national leaders who show a complacent ignorance of that language and that history. And they are puzzled why any devotee of the profoundly intellectual, knowledgeable and hardworking Churchill would expend precious stores of outrage on vague “campaigns” rather than on incurious and disengaged leaders who continue to wield actual power in a manner so destructive of “the traditional values and mores of Western Civilization.”

Finally, while it may be easy for a Christian to accept that the term “Christian civilisation” is “not mean[t] to exclude Jews or Buddhists or Muslims,” I’m not so sure they can expect Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims to feel the same. In any event, it seems a point of common courtesy more than anything else.

I suppose it’s a good thing every now and then for all of us to get something off our chests. But sometimes, given the emotional rather than rational origins of the urge, the act ends up revealing more about our mood at the moment than our considered ideas.

Thanks for a great publication on the greatest man.

• Thanks for the kind words about Finest Hour. And please let me apologize unreservedly if I tarred any tradition-loving secular humanist. But “national leaders who show a complacent ignorance of that language and that history” were not my point. Yes, Churchill was a secularist, who forsook the “superstitions” of orthodox religion. That didn’t prevent him from deploying orthodox Christianity —which, come to think of it, encompasses the same “common courtesy” you cite.

Why can’t we expect Jews, Buddhists and Muslims to accept Churchill’s application of Christian principles to world affairs? Most of them did in 1940. What a shame that it takes looming extinction for people to grasp the broader interpretation of Churchill’s frequent references to “Christian civilization.”

The “issue” with “common courtesy” is that courtesy is no longer common. Not when you have elected, presumably sane leaders comparing a President or Pri me Minister with Hitler, or their opponents labeling them “surrender monkeys.” Not to mention what imams are saying about our stained history in the mosques our tolerant societies allow in our midst.

“Queen. House of Commons. If you accept it, you are a part of it. If you don’t accept it, you have to fix a target.” That’s what those moderate voices directing their energies to making the world better are saying in civilized, easy-going Derby, England. Or at the mosque in Birmingham, praised by Tony Blair for its contribution to tolerance, on the death of a British soldier in Afghanistan: “The hero of Islam is the one who separated his head from his shoulders.”

Our children are being taught to “understand and respect” such voices, who are not a problem but an “issue”; after all, “they” are entitled to their opinion, our own history is not spotless, and “we” should devote our energy to making it better, not crowing about it. But Churchill believed crowing was indispensable, offering those “less fortunate than us” to glimpse the possibilities:

“We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which, through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law, find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.” Let us do more crowing. While we still can. —Ed.

• “The worst difficulties from which we suffer do not come from without. They come from within. They come from a peculiar type of brainy people always found in our country, who, if they add something to its culture, take much from its strength. Our difficulties come from the mood of unwarrantable self-abasement into which we have been cast by a powerful section of our own intellectuals. They come from the acceptance of defeatist doctrines by a large proportion of our politicians….Nothing can save England if she will not save herself. If we lose faith in ourselves, in our capacity to

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