I am pleased to report that I am on page 663 (of 980 pages) of Andrew Roberts’ excellent doorstopper, Churchill: Walking with Destiny. While the details of World War II (battles, etc.) are more difficult for me to follow, the personalities and how they interacted at the time to literally save Western Civilization has been fascinating: Winston Churchill above all, but many others as well.
Thinking about history, the question is often asked, “How do we know what is true, and what isn’t?” or “How do we study/write history?” “What are primary and secondary sources?” “What authorities make this true?” And Pilate’s famous one, “What is truth?”
I asked and considered these questions in several of my novels, in particular, The Magdalene Mystery, which searches for the narratives surrounding Mary Magdalen, and tries to discern the truth, if there is one. How historians have “done” history over the last century is a part of the equation, for methods have changed considerably. New Testament history – the Gospel accounts of Mary Magdalene and what she saw and didn’t see at Christ’s tomb on that first Easter morning – have been questioned. And yet, as I researched how we know what we know, the more I understood how these accounts were written and read and copied over the centuries to become our testament of redemption. And yet the naysayers, the destroyers of objective truth, won over public opinion and destroyed our people’s faith in the salvific acts of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago.
In truth, some modern intellectuals, particularly on the Left, consider truth an impossibility and at best a subjective opinion. Again, the history of history and historians is also a subject of The Magdalene Mystery. For it is remarkable how truth is considered dead, along, I suppose, with faith.
I still believe in objective truth. Granted each person sees it slightly differently, but we should all seek it fully and not be afraid of discovering it to the best of our knowledge at that moment in time. Hence, the choice of go-to authorities is important for the average person, since most of us cannot be authorities on everything.
Facts and fictions are tossed about today in a media circus of entertainment. We as readers and viewers have been reduced to observers in the stands, wondering if it is worth voting for anything or anybody. We fear speaking out or questioning, so that only one side controls the conversation. In the case of speech in our world today, might makes right, not democratic or constitutional.
And so as I read about Winston Churchill, and his many heroic deeds, I am supremely grateful to Andrew Roberts. Mr. Roberts’ words ring true. He shows where Churchill goes astray, misses the mark, creates the wrong impression, is, in fact, human and full of foibles. But he also shows how this man, with all his faults, was a man walking fearlessly with his destiny. He stood alone most of the time, always seeking how he could save Britain, and by saving Britain, save the United States and the free world.
I am currently reading about early 1941 and, having researched the invasion of Greece by Italy and Germany as backstory to a character in Angel Mountain, I recognize overlapping moments in my memory where truth resides. The Nazi invasion of Crete in the spring, where my Elizabeth Levin (6) with her little brother (2) were hiding with their families in the mountains, was a moment I describe in the novel. The character of Elizabeth is based on a true account (I heartily recommend), a memoir by Yolanda Avram Willis, A Hidden Child in Greece, Rescue in the Holocaust.
At the time, the Nazi landing on the beaches of Crete was considered a great defeat for the Allies, but it turned out to be a great victory, for it delayed the invasion of Russia for six weeks, just enough time for a particularly cold winter to set in, one that spelled victory for the Allies.
And so today, in the midst of many warring factions in the West, we see history torn down, erased, cancelled. Truth is said to be lies and lies said to be truth. The past is weaponized, and we are left in a dangerous void of meaning. We must pray for discernment, for totalitarian regimes are fond of erasing history. This we know from history, and there are a few of us left who studied history. He who controls the “narrative”, the past, controls the present and the future, according to Communist dictators. Many have written eyewitness accounts of this, and the mass killings that ensue, should anyone be left to read a true account. An excellent account of the Communist gulags and the suppression of truth can be found in the works by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Even so, we still have reliable authorities, those who tell true history. And as we celebrate Columbus Day tomorrow, it is good to seek authorities that tell true American history. I found one such article in the Epoch Times, a paper I trust, which I am looking forward to reading in celebration of America’s discovery.
We still have libraries and books and pages to be turned, words to be read. We still have heroes and saints and sages. This may be our time, our world, our destiny. This may be the time in which we are called to tell the truth and to walk with those who seek it.