We had all nine grandchildren in the house last week, Monday through Friday. Hence, the lack of a blog post a week ago. Visits to the grocery store were frequent, as was taking them places. There was no time to write, or even watch the news.
After our mini-family reunion, I really hope they will want to see each other after my wife and I are no longer around to host the gathering. I’m sure they will!
I was struck (again) by how much louder the five younger ones, all boys, were, than their four older female sisters and cousins. Noise, noise, noise! Can’t boys do anything quietly? Clearly not.
I found myself walking through the daily debris silently reminding myself that “children are a blessing!” They certainly are and I’m already looking forward to when we can all be together again.
THEN AND NOW
When everybody was gone, I started reading Boris Johnson’s “The Churchill Factor: How one man made history.”
You may have heard of Boris Johnson. He’s sometimes been described as “Britain’s Donald Trump.” On his recent visit to England, Trump expressed the opinion that Boris would make “a great prime minister.” A poll earlier this week showed him to be the favorite to succeed Theresa May. Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have known each other for some time and are good friends.
Boris served two terms as a very successful Mayor of London. More recently, he was Britain’s Foreign Secretary, the equivalent of Secretary of State.
He resigned a few weeks ago over Brexit. His objection, supported by many, is that Mrs. May, the Prime Minister, seems to want to compromise with the European Union. This would not deliver the Brexit (total independence) from the EU that was promised after the referendum over two years ago. There is still no agreement between the UK and the EU over future trade. Boris Johnson’s point is that the United Kingdom doesn’t need one – that new trade deals can be signed after breaking away from Brussels. Have faith – it will all work out.
I must admit to sympathy with his stance. Get out quick. Don’t hesitate.
His book on Churchill was written a few years ago and published in 2014. I’m now reading chapter 17 (there are 23 chapters). The chapter is titled “The Wooing of America” and details Churchill’s relationship with Franklin Roosevelt. His single-minded mission was to bring the United States into the war against Hitler. At their first wartime meeting, the two leaders were concerned that Hitler had recently invaded Russia. But Churchill knew that after Russia, he would come after Britain; and that if Britain fell and Hitler sank the Royal Navy, America would be next. The whole world would very quickly descend into the barbarism of fascism.
A lot was at stake when they met in Newfoundland on August 10th, 1941. This was the handshake that was to change the history of the twentieth century.
“As he stretches out that elegant white hand he knows he is reaching for his only lifeline; and yet there is nothing about him to convey the gloom of his position. On the contrary, his face is suddenly wreathed in smiles, babyish, irresistible.
“Roosevelt smiles back; they grip hands, for ages, each reluctant to be the first to let go, and for the next two days Churchill maintains his schmoozathon. We don’t know exactly what they say to each other at the first such Atlantic conference — the direct ancestor of NATO; but we know that Churchill lays it on thick. His mission is to build up a sense of common destiny; to work with the grain of Roosevelt’s natural instincts, and to turn the USA from distant sympathizers into full-blown allies in bloodshed.” (page 235)
This was a family reunion, only the second time a President of the United States had shaken the hand of a British prime minister in office. 160 years after Yorktown. 160 years after the United States had separated itself from the rest of the English speaking world. Now the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon world (the two sons of Joseph) were to be united in a common purpose. They met in Canada, the oldest Dominion of the British Empire, a nation founded by Loyalists at the end of the Revolutionary War. The alliance that was forming has remained the foundation of global peace and order for 77 years.
As I read Johnson’s book, I could see parallels with today. There’s no fighting this time (not yet, anyway), but once again Britain is trying to free itself from European despotism, as it has so often in history. There are those, like the current prime minister, who want to compromise; but others, like Boris Johnson, who are in a Churchillian mood, wanting to raise two fingers to the German-dominated EU (the two fingers were “V for Victory” in WWII, but, reversed, they have another meaning in England, which you will have to Google!)
History may repeat itself.
Confidence in Mrs. May is waning. The Opposition Labour Party is scandalizing Britain with its anti-semitism. The smaller parties are not credible. An internal coup in the Conservative Party could replace Mrs. May with Boris Johnson, just as Chamberlain was replaced with Winston Churchill.
There’s another analogy.
Mr. Trump repeated a commitment to Mrs. May that the US will offer a free trade deal to the United Kingdom when Britain leaves the EU. (EU rules mean that no deal can be signed until D-Day on 29th March next year; D for Departure!) American farmers, losing markets in the current trade dispute with the EU, will benefit from a new trade deal with the UK; Britain will benefit with plentiful supplies of cheap food.
Once again, the New World may come to the aid of the Old.
Once again, a family reunion could make a big difference in the world.
There’s another lesson from Churchill’s meeting with FDR. After the historic meeting of president and prime minister, there was a “divine service” on the Sunday morning. Sailors of the two nations sang hymns together – “chosen by Churchill – that express that single heritage: two broadly Protestant nations bound together against a vile and above all a pagan regime.” (pages 235-6)
This was just a few weeks after the National Day of Prayer called by King George VI during Dunkirk.
At such a critical time, today’s leaders should follow the example of their predecessors and ask God for divine help through a very challenging time.
BEWARE OF CHINESE TIES
Britain is keen for a sweet deal with China after Brexit – but watch out for Beijing’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’, says Michael Auslin. For decades we’ve heard dire warnings about China’s growing military power, but these doom-mongers have missed the point. China isn’t on the war path. Where old empires would start by invading, it starts by trading. Only when an economy has become dependent on trade does Beijing begin to demand more, with the aim of creating an ever-expanding ‘Greater China’ in its near abroad. (Freddy Gray, The Spectator, 8/2)
FARMERS IN CRISIS
There’s increasing talk of land redistribution in South Africa, the wealthiest nation on the African continent. It’s been almost a quarter of a century since the end of apartheid, a period in which few black South Africans have seen any benefits. A wealthy elite has been created through corruption at the highest level, but little has been done to help the average person.
Neighboring Zimbabwe confiscated land from white farmers at the turn of this century. The result was mass starvation, the collapse of the currency and economic chaos.
The European farmers who colonized southern Africa in the nineteenth century brought a great deal of development to the region. Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) was the ‘breadbasket of Africa;” now, after almost forty years of independence, it’s the “basket case of Africa.” The white farmers who once dominated Rhodesia were “commercial farmers,” similar to their American and Canadian counter-parts. African farmers are “subsistence” farmers, who just grow enough food for their own families. This is a major cultural difference the world does not understand. Confiscating white farmland can only have one consequence – a dramatic drop in food production (Zimbabwe saw a 90% drop, with a consequent famine).
Farmers in South Africa are being murdered at an alarming rate. Many have chosen to leave the country. Western Australia is one area that is attracting them. Other parts of Africa are offering the farmers 99-year leases to boost their own agricultural production. Even Russia is encouraging them to relocate.
Other farmers from Europe moved to North America, Australia and New Zealand in the nineteenth century. These commercial farmers produce a disproportionate percentage of the world’s food. Higher tariffs on agricultural produce could affect this, along with changes in the weather and massive fires that seem to be a permanent fixture of our landscape. All of these threaten today’s farmers.
Zimbabwe’s woes never seem to end. The “first free election” held at the weekend, has been followed by riots and violence as the losing party claims to have won. It’s not possible to determine who really won, but after 38 years, ZANU-PF is still in power. Most people will not be surprised.
Prior to Zimbabwe, Rhodesia had elections for decades without any violence. Zimbabwe has not been able to achieve that. As is the case elsewhere in Africa, tribalism and corruption have led to democracy being compromised. Zimbabwe’s first leader, Robert Mugabe, was in power for almost 38 years, leading a very corrupt regime.
It’s doubtful there will be any significant change.