I wonder, when was the first time someone blamed God for a horrific act against humanity? And when will be the last time, when He finally shows up (again) to roll His divine eyes and say, “Honestly, mortals, must you blame everything on me? I gave you brains for a reason. You could use them once in awhile and save yourself some grief!” But no, instead, mortals use their brains to may hay off someone else’s field.
How many times have you seen a disaster turned political? You cannot even wrinkle your nose in disgust or tear up with sorrow before a politician or journalist tries to turn it to their advantage in an attempt to make you hate (or love) the “man in charge.” Gee, we’re really sorry that this happened, but it might not have, had that bastard in office not been in office, am I right? God forbid we mourn the victims of a mass shooting for ten minutes before it becomes all about gun control.
So, just to test your mettle a little, this episode takes a good ten minutes before it plunges into a literal fog, to establish that the higher ups know something Churchill doesn’t… that a lethal fog is about to envelop the city. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, you could make something off this, old boy, if Churchill flubs it. Incredulous, we watch politicians position themselves for power grabs, greedy at the thought that grand old Winston is about to go down, never mind that people are dying from the fog.
But political harping aside, perhaps the most interesting aspect of this episode is in Venetia Scott, a character invented for the narrative to symbolize innocence, ambition, and passion. She speaks for every soul, young and old, when she hands the great Winston Churchill his box in the morning and sighs, “What have I done?” She points to his accomplishments by age twenty-four, and compares them to her menial job in government (the wheels keep turning), but her plaintive unspoken cry is: I want my life to stand for something. I want to do something, be something, make any kind of difference.
Venetia is every young idealist who has ever walked the earth, and her character represents not only that, but the ‘everyman’ who looks in awe upon someone of far greater distinction. She sees not the ‘old, crumbling monument of the past’ that his own party sees; she sees not a deeply flawed, bitter, even cynical old man; she looks at him and hears the words from his book, the ambitious words of a much younger man who tells the youth that all the world is before them, that they must grasp it, that the future lies in their hands. And inspired by this, into the dangerous world she flies, her chin set with determination, a goal in mind–and dies hit by a bus in the fog.
Sometimes we dream big and other times we fall; sometimes we live long enough to see our dreams fulfilled or realize they were not what we wanted after all. Without dreams of greatness, without a desire to leave some mark upon the world, humans would shrivel up and die, with nothing to live for, no higher calling on their mind. Mere mortals have only inflicted change when they have decided to act upon it, to do more than dream, to dash through the traffic of life and throw themselves into the way of opportunity.
Sometimes, they survive; and sometimes they die, but sometimes their deaths can prompt greater things. Moved by her loss, and shocked at the condition of the hospital, Churchill gives a motivational speech that saves him from extinction; he does not know it, but he delays his own proverbial execution. He also represents something… the division between privilege and reality all politicians suffer; a removal from the petty concerns of the common people. He need not leave Downing Street, or can travel in a luxury car; others must walk through the smog, heads down, and risk their lives in traffic, all to put bread on the table.
Stories paint realities for us that we cannot experience ourselves; they arouse our deepest emotions because our minds cannot often distinguish between real suffering and fictionalized suffering. Often, we are so trapped in our ‘bubble,’ our sphere of influence, we neither notice nor care that much for another’s suffering. It is not until life forces us to walk in their shoes, to know depression, to stand in a hospital and know your loved one will never speak to you again, that we find true compassion, built of shared experiences. Churchill had to suffer, to know and to care.
Those who criticized him are right, he was too detached… but those who criticized him did not truly care about the public either; they wanted to benefit, to climb higher, on the bodies of dead souls, valued only in an attempt to tear a politician down. So the next time you see much made of victims, to the point where an issue outshines the real devastation of the event, ask yourself: who benefits?