Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wars and Rumours of Wars

A last glimpse of summer today as the temperature warms to the mid-seventies (25 C) and we are lulled into thinking the big band of storms that's pouring rain over all of the NW part of the Isles won't reach us, followed by plummeting temperatures. Oblivious to the coming wet, we sit outside to drink our coffees, not needing to pretend we are in Paris, thanks to the lovely view of the Radcliffe Camera, All Souls, and Brasenose.

The pope's visit has dropped from sight despite the best efforts of some to keep religion as a subject alive. There was one post-mortem TV show on BBC Two that had two RCs including the Archbishop of Westminster and an equally smooth-talking croney, vs two very sharp Anglicans including McCulloch of 'History of Christianity' fame, moderated by Huw Edwards of the Six O'Clock news on BBC One. What struck me was not the arguments—we've heard them all before, including that the RCs won't allow discussion of certain topics—but the smooth talking doubletalk and issue-avoidance of the RCs on the one hand, in contrast to the incisiveness on the part of the Anglicans. It was disturbing to hear the torrent of non-language pouring out of the RC mouths in the most unctuous tones, sounding so much as though they were saying something when they absolutely were not. And then there were some blatant untruths, such as the clip of the young RC cleric who described how one sex abuser was promptly turned over to the police—"so there, how can you say that full information hasn't been given"—but what about the thousands of others who were covered up? At least the Belgian bishops, in the wake of the revelation that every single parish in Belgium had been affected by pedophilia, came out in today's papers openly challenging mandatory celibacy.

In the meantime Westminster Abbey, which seems to work overtime in the autumn, hosted the service for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. This to me was far more interesting, relevant and splendid than all the shifting and shuffling of the clergy, as excellent as the ecumenical service with Rowan and the Pope was with readings and hymns being very much to the point (if not pointed). The Battle of Britain service was done in the inimitable style of British civil religion, complete with fly-over by a Spitfire and a Hurricane (and, rather anti-climax, four Tornados). The TV programmes surrounding the event have been quite fascinating, telling those of us who didn't know, for example, that British planes were outnumbered 4-1 and the only reasons the UK isn't goose-stepping today are that the Brits had the advantage of radar and that Goering was an addict and had terrible judgment. One of the programmes was about the British pilots (and those of other nationalities) who often had to fly multiple sorties in one day, some of them going up with only 10 hours' training in a Spitfire. One of those still living said that survival was largely luck. Ditching in the Channel was sure death, and the reason Search and Rescue was founded. Tonight there is another programme, this one from the German point of view, and after that a hiatus until Remembrance Day in early November.

I will refrain from making British/American comparisons; but it was significant in yesterday's reporting of the handover from British to American troops in Afghanistan that the Americans weren't interested in what the British had to tell them. This seems the height of folly and an all-too-familiar exhibition of American arrogance. I remember, somewhat inaccurately, a cartoon from the early days of the Vietnam War of a GI coming across a French skeleton who pointed towards a sign that said "Dien Bien Phu" and a caption that indicated the Americans were about to repeat the French mistakes. By contrast, the Brits have continued a "hearts and minds" campaign even under the continual assault of the Taliban; a third of UK casualties have come from just this one area, many of them at the hard-won forward patrol bases the Americans are evidently going to abandon.

3 Comments:

OpenID mamadar said...

I have just begun re-reading your book Seasons of Life and Death, which I have not touched in at least ten years. I hope the books you're publishing next year in the UK will make it back to the States!

2:48 pm, September 22, 2010  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Many thanks for your kind words. I am waiting to hear from a US publisher. I have also hoped to get "Seasons" back in print, but so far no takers. As soon as I hear from the US publishers I will post the result on the blog. In any event, you will be able to get the new book in May at Amazon UK

9:24 am, September 23, 2010  
Blogger Bo said...

Sounds thrilling!!

7:21 pm, September 24, 2010  

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