"Darkest Hour" follows Winston Churchill's struggle to rouse Britain to confront the Nazi menace. Winning the war was step two. Step one, the movie's theme, was to get the country to agree to wage war.
And he did no buttering. "I have nothing to offer," Churchill famously told his nation, "but blood, toil, tears and sweat." And that's what it got as the price for saving civilization.
There's no mention of Donald Trump, obviously, but it's hard to see the movie without feeling some heartbreak for an America now enduring a dark hour — that is, Russia's ravaging of our democratic core. Our political culture is under threat, but we have no Churchill to fight back.
We don't even have a Neville Chamberlain. With the World War I bloodbath still haunting Europe, Chamberlain held that appeasing Hitler would save Britain from annihilation by the superior German war machine. But he never questioned who was behind the Nazi peril.
Vladimir Putin does not hold the whip hand against the United States. We have the technological genius and creativity to defend ourselves in this information war and exact a price for the Russian aggression. Putin holds the whip hand only against Trump.
Trump won't go so far as to verbally criticize Putin. There's much speculation on why he seems so ghastly afraid of the Russian leader. Putin may possess embarrassing video or hard evidence of collusion during the campaign. He undoubtedly controls the Russian bankers who could harm the Trump real estate empire if the president doesn't jump high enough.
These suspicions grew after the Mueller investigation's indictment of Russians for interfering in the 2016 election. The report noted that its American targets were unwitting dupes, which Trump at first heralded as proof of "no collusion" on his campaign's part. His mood soured as the reality sank in that prosecutors were referring only to "this indictment." That does not preclude findings of collusion in future indictments.
A courageous Trump could have become a movie antihero — the personally flawed man who suddenly rises to serve a cause greater than himself. So his helpers paid off porn stars and centerfolds. If Trump led America to victory in an information war against a hostile power, much would be forgiven.
But as American democracy is being hijacked, Trump won't even harden the cockpits. The scariest part is how many Republicans don't seem to mind.
Churchill stirred his nation to fight to the last man and woman. To think, today's information war need not involve shooting, and Trump nevertheless remains in hiding.
In any case, why would the Russians bother shooting Americans when they can get Americans to shoot one another? They've been pretty good at it so far:
Just unleash trolls to stoke hatred and resentment among various groups. Gum up the public discourse with bald lies. Drum up support for the NRA and its sick willingness to flood the United States with military-style weapons.
It clearly doesn't matter to the NRA whether these weapons of war get into the hands of the obviously unhinged, such as Nikolas Cruz, who's charged with taking 17 lives at his Florida school, or of the not-obviously unhinged, such as Stephen Paddock, who massacred 58 innocents in Las Vegas.
Churchill put the stakes in stark terms. "Without victory," he said, "there is no survival." Letting Britain turn into a colony of Nazi Germany was not his idea of survival.
America could go on, one supposes, as a former democracy run by autocrats, an Orwellian satellite of Russian propaganda. This information war could be won without a Churchill, but there must be someone to lead the troops. Trump is plainly not interested.
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