As usual, I’m thinking about war.
I think about war all the time—it’s a fact of life that I cannot ever fully comprehend. The just war, the necessary war, the terrible war, the pointless war. They’re all around us, all the time. Wars shape our culture, our country, our friends and family.
I keep watching and reading to try to make sense of it all. It’s my duty as a citizen to think about war and its implications.
My son and I saw Dunkirk last week and felt the deep helplessness of the 300,000 soldiers stranded on that beach. Equally powerful was the heroism of the small craft owners (one played by Mark Rylance in a magnificent, still performance) who crossed the English Channel in their fishing boats and ferries to attempt a rescue.
Last night we watched Memphis Belle, the 1944 documentary by William Wyler, one of the directors featured in Five Came Back, the documentary about which I wrote earlier this year. Memphis Belle is a 39-minute film about a 10-man heavy bomber crew on their 25th, final mission over Germany. Wyler is aboard the bomber as it makes its final run, capturing extraordinary footage.
The scene that kills me is the briefing where the officers in charge reveal the details of the mission to a room full of very alert pilots, navigators, and radio operators. The officers have schemed up a plan for a thousand bombers to attack Germany on a single day, as intricate a doom ballet as you can possibly imagine. The flyers have one job: to carry out exactly what their superiors have laid out for them.
That’s war, in a nutshell. It’s the most excruciating dynamic: trust your leaders. You have no choice but to trust them.
What does this have to do with today’s Knit to This podcast?
Well, “The Prime Minister and the Prof” is about war. Malcolm Gladwell goes to the very top of the British government during World War II to examine Winston Churchill’s decision-making process. Gladwell delves into Churchill’s tight friendship with Lord Cherwell (far left in the photo above; I’m guessing you can find Churchill).
Malcolm Gladwell is a journalist whose podcast Revisionist History is often surprising. It’s sobering to hear about the capricious way Churchill arrived at some monumental decisions.
I know it’s heavy rowing to think about war, especially here in the context of MDK, where knitting is always fun. But sometimes a sheep-shearing video is a luxury. I hope you’ll take time to watch and listen to these programs. And if you don’t particularly feel like it just now, I honestly don’t blame you at all.
PS Memphis Belle is available on Netflix.