I realized this week that I had spent 50 consecutive nights in the same bed for the first time since around 1965. I’m neither bragging nor complaining. It’s just another strange factoid from the strangest of years.
Remember Dec. 31, 2019, when a million people gathered in Times Square toasting 2020? Yeah, I bet those fools would like to have a do-over right about now. What’s the current jargon? The reset button? Yeah, let’s all go back and hit the reset button on this one.
But it is an ill wind, indeed, that blows no good, so staying home for five or six fortnights in a row hasn’t been all bad. I’ve gotten to do a lot of reading.
Never mind that I was supposed to have been actually writing a new book rather than reading a few dozen. It’s hard to concentrate when the world is insane, and you are part of the insanity. But I have read an awful lot.
Are you familiar with Jack Reacher? Well, I am — now. He is nothing like Tom Cruise, by the way. Cruise is a little on the small size. The guy in the Lee Childs books that Cruise portrayed in a couple of movies is 6 feet, 5 inches and weighs around 250 pounds. He roams from place to place with only his toothbrush and always manages to get into trouble with bad guys. He doesn’t mind beating people up, or killing them, if they need killing, and does so with great enthusiasm. He dispatches people by the dozens in each novel. And there are dozens of Reacher novels. And I have read every one.
More recently, however, I have turned to non-fiction and just finished a remarkable book about a quite remarkable man — Sir Winston Churchill.
The book is called “The Splendid and the Vile,” by Eric Larson and covers the period from around May 1940, when Churchill first became prime minister of Great Britain, through America’s entry into World War II, in minute detail. It is almost a day-by-day report of what Churchill and those in his inner sanctum were doing and thinking and reads almost like a novel. Except, unlike in the Jack Reacher books real people were dying every day at the hands of Adolph Hitler.
Reading this book has reinforced what I already knew. If there was ever a man put on Earth to serve a populace at an exact time in history, it was Winston Churchill in 1940. He saved the world with the eloquence of the English language as his primary weapon.
All of Europe had capitulated to the Nazis. America was determined to stay out of the war. Yet Churchill refused to give up and refused to allow the British people to give up. Day after day, month after month, the German Luftwaffe flew sortie after sortie after sortie over England and London itself — determined to bomb that country into submission — and Churchill’s leadership in the face of certain defeat enabled the British to carry on.
In the process of helping his tiny island hang on, Churchill developed a close relationship with American President Franklin Roosevelt and eventually the two held their noses and formed an alliance with Joseph Stalin and the original Axis of Evil was defeated.
But it was the leadership of Churchill, first and foremost, that held Hitler at bay until that alliance could be formed. He really did save the world. And you know what he got for his troubles?
He got voted out of office at the end of the war. Less than two months after V-E Day.
All glory is fleeting.
Meanwhile, as we fight our own war against the unseen enemy that is COVID-19, there is so much malarkey and fear-mongering being thrown around that it is hard to separate truth from fiction. Everybody, it seems, has an angle and everybody wants to spin things to suit a certain agenda and because of that, everything has to be taken with a block of salt. Not a grain. A whole block — one large enough to serve as a salt lick for a whole herd of Herefords. And there is about as much excrement being thrown around with all the so-called facts as that same herd might produce in a week’s time.
One day someone will write a book about what we are going through. I hope it is Erik Larson. He seems to be good at separating fact from fiction. And he recognizes a real leader when he sees one — warts, feathers and all.
Oh, and, for the record — the British people realized they had fouled up in 1945 and asked Churchill to come back and serve again in 1951. Lucky for them, he said yes.