Yesterday I staged an imaginary Obama/Churchill match-up. Today I want to add a little commentary.
As you had probably already figured out, I greatly admire Churchill. I understand that he was a difficult person (often); that he could be nasty; that he was more willing to let his own people die in the fight than we would now consider acceptable; and that he made some bad decisions over his long career. Offsetting all that, though, was that he was a LEADER. He loved his country unabashedly, and had a deep and clear-cut commitment to its ultimate victory over Nazi totalitarianism.
Today, we see as inevitable, not only the Allied victory in WWII, but the fact that there would be free countries that would stand against the Nazis to begin with. Back in the 1930s, though, there were many, especially in Churchill’s England, who wanted to make common cause with the Nazis. This was an easy idea to hold. From the middle and upper class viewpoint, Germany was not just another Western culture, but was actually the ne plus ultra of western civilization.
Germany was lovely to look at (those Rhine castles and medieval towns), was an academic leader (producing some of the greatest scientists in the world), and was a cultural leader (Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Goethe, Schiller). On top of that, it had such well-managed people, who kept their streets clean and their trains running on time. The Germans and the Brits even shared the same antisemitism, although it took the latter another 70 years to reach Nazi levels of virulence.
Sure, there had been that hiccup in civility from 1914-1918, but that was the belligerent Kaiser’s fault. From a cultural point of view, many people in England, especially at the level of the ruling class, considered Germany “one of us.”
It was Churchill who understood that there was one insurmountable difference between the two countries, one that could not be glossed over by superficial similarities or by worship for Germany’s architectural, academic or cultural beauties: Freedom. Churchill understood freedom, and he was able to articulate that understanding in a way few men at any time ever could.
At this point in my writing, I was also about to add that Churchill was able to articulate the idea of freedom in a way that even our current president can’t, despite his being sold to us as America’s greatest orator evah, but I stopped myself. That merely compares their oratorical skills, while assuming that they share the same values.
The real difference between Churchill and Obama is that the latter does not understand freedom in the same way that Americans do — or at least the way that those Americans raised to revere the Constitution do. Obama, like any other socialist leader, whether in the Soviet Union, or Nazi Germany, or or modern Europe, or UC Berkeley, or even Orwell’s fictional England, believes that true freedom lies only in total subordination to the state. That of course explains why he is comfortable with Islam, despite the fact that, unlike the Germans and the England in the 1930s, there are few comforting similarities between the Islamic culture and ours: as does Obama, Islam also believe in complete subordination to the state.]
UPDATE: Andrew Klavan’s short post seems like an appropriate coda to any ruminations about liberty.