You can’t judge Churchill by the stan­dards of

Warwickshire Telegraph - - YOUR VIEWS -

MORE than 60 years af­ter he saved the world from Nazi rule, Sir Win­ston Churchill was this week in­volved in yet an­other war. The for­mer British Prime Min­is­ter was quoted by for­mer NASA as­tro­naut Scott Kelly who had called for ci­vil­ity dur­ing the di­vi­sive ap­point­ment of Brett Ka­vanaugh to the US Supreme Court.

“One of the great­est lead­ers of mod­ern times, Sir Win­ston Churchill said, ‘in vic­tory, mag­na­nim­ity’. I guess those days are over,” the for­mer space shut­tle com­man­der wrote.

The Amer­i­can’s tweet sparked out­rage among ac­tivists as they at­tacked Kelly for dar­ing to quote the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter who they la­belled a racist and a “mass mur­derer”.

One went as far to say Churchill was “just as good as Hitler” while an­other tweeted: “Check out the records of the Ben­gal famine of

In­dia where his poli­cies and de­ci­sions lead to the death of mil­lions due to star­va­tion and dis­ease.”

They were re­fer­ring to

Churchill re­fus­ing to send food to those starv­ing dur­ing the

Ben­gal famine, which led to a short­age that claimed around three mil­lion lives in 1943-44.

The crit­ics failed to point out how his­to­ri­ans ar­gue the Prime Min­is­ter did as much as he could given the cir­cum­stances of World War Two.

The at­tacks, in the US and the UK, were a far cry from the BBC poll that voted Churchill the “great­est Bri­ton of all time” in 2002 and last year’s de­pic­tion of him in the Os­car­win­ning film Dark­est Hour.

The fury was so great it led to Kelly is­su­ing a grov­el­ling apol­ogy.

“Did not mean to of­fend by quot­ing Churchill,” he later tweeted.

“My apolo­gies. I will go and ed­u­cate my­self fur­ther on his atroc­i­ties, racist views which I do not sup­port.

“My point was we need to come to­gether as one na­tion. We are all Amer­i­cans.

“That should tran­scend par­ti­san pol­i­tics.”

It’s a sad state of af­fairs when you have to vol­un­teer for re-ed­u­ca­tion for quot­ing one of the great­est lead­ers of the last cen­tury mak­ing a per­fectly fine point.

Kelly couldn’t just tell the crit­ics to get real with­out be­com­ing a tar­get him­self.

As UN am­bas­sador for space, he’s tweeted on Pres­i­dent Trump pulling out of the Paris Ac­cord and set­ting up a Space Force.

But ap­par­ently to quote the man who saved the west­ern world from Nazi rule was a step too far.

This sorry tale pro­vides us with an op­por­tu­nity to re­visit the con­tro­versy about the cel­e­bra­tion of his­tor­i­cal fig­ures in mod­ern times.

Churchill had a great and il­lus­tri­ous po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. He could be ill-man­nered and ob­sti­nate, with a ten­dency to see things in black and white terms, and there were times when he got things tremen­dously wrong – for in­stance, his colo­nial­ist in­cli­na­tions poi­soned his opin­ions on In­dia.

But un­like most of us – he pos­sessed gen­uine great­ness.

With in­va­sion look­ing likely, Churchill was un­der great po­lit­i­cal pres­sure to do a deal with Ger­many – some­thing he re­sisted, vow­ing to the House of Com­mons “I have noth­ing to of­fer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”.

His will and de­ter­mi­na­tion in­spired a na­tion and was cru­cial to the de­feat of the Third Re­ich.

So it is no sur­prise that Kelly praised him as one of the “great­est lead­ers of mod­ern times”.

Churchill’s legacy should not be tar­nished for some­thing we didn’t even have a name for back then.

We should be wary of “pre­sen­tism” – the judg­ing peo­ple of an­other time by the stan­dards of to­day.

The coun­try laughed at Alf Gar­nett for decades – up un­til 1998 – but those mil­lions who tuned into his sit­coms each week would now cringe at the hu­mour they once thought funny.

Times change, as do opin­ions and thoughts. If we con­tinue with these ridicu­lous at­tacks on his­tory, and those that shaped it, we will not learn from the lessons of the past.

We may, in fact, run the risk of re­peat­ing them.

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