Commentary: Who will step forward in our darkest hour?

I saw "The Darkest Hour" starring Gary Oldman last night. The film is about the month of May, 1940 when Winston Churchill was called upon to replace Neville Chamberlain as Britain's Prime Minister. It was a most terrible time for England. Hitler was sweeping over Europe with the mightiest military force the world had ever known.

On Day One, Churchill learned of the 300,000 men trapped at Dunkirk (another movie). He was under enormous pressure to initiate peace talks with the fascist Nazi, Adolf Hitler. At one point he almost succumbed to the pressure. As we all know, he didn't. He resisted. He fought back.

It's an extraordinary film, breathtaking acting and well filmed. Oldman spent 200 hours in a makeup chair being transformed into Winston Churchill. It's difficult to find Gary Oldman in this character on the screen. Oldman will forever more BE Winston Churchill.

Winston Churchill refused to give in to the fascists. "I cannot bear to see the swastika flying over Buckingham Palace," he said. Instead, against all odds he fought back, because he knew England's democracy was worth fighting for.

As I sat in the darkened theater watching a movie about life and death and the actions of a crazed fascist, it was hard not to think about how after 70 years we're creeping towards being in the same place. We have a dictator, a mafia-like thug, Vladimir Putin, who has hijacked his country; Russia. He has created oligarchs who he's made very wealthy and are dedicated to keeping him in power. He's rigged the system and unless there's an uprising he will rule Russia until his dying day. He's committed to expansion; invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea.

Putin sees democracy and people living in freedom as a direct threat to his way of life; a life of complete control not unlike the life Hitler had envisioned. Putin is waging war with the free world. He is working to undermine elections not only in the United States but any other country practicing democracy.

There is a pronounced difference between May of 1940 and 2018; today there is no Winston Churchill. Today in America we have the exact opposite of Winston Churchill. Today in America we have a president who has long and deep ties to Putin's Russia and instead of resisting Putin's aggression our president seems more than willing to assist him. Destabilizing our institutions is something Putin could only dream of and yet today our own president is doing just that. Donald Trump has invoked the mantra of "drain the swamp" to justify his actions to undermine our government, our free press and inevitably our way of life.

Instead of fighting against back the fascists both here and abroad our untrustworthy president seems more committed every day to empowering our enemy. You would think that America should be able to depend upon its president to protect us from thugs and tyranny, but instead we have a leader who appears to be one of them.

So where does that leave us? We must all start to think like Churchill. We must resist; fight back; do whatever we can to save our democracy, because yes we are losing our democracy. When you see Congress passing legislation that the overwhelming majority of people don't want, but a few oligarchs demand, then we are losing our democracy.

Our forefathers fought long and hard to create this country and our way of life. It is up to all of us to remember those who sacrificed their lives so that we may live in freedom and not be ruled by fascist dictators. The choice is yours. You can sit back and watch your screens and remain distracted as the tide washes over you. Or you can find the courage to resist. The latter is the heavy lift; the hard job, but our country is worth fighting for, isn't it? Who will be our Winston Churchill?

Bob Stannard is a resident of Manchester.


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