Prosperity–but at What Price?

Neville Chamberlain

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at Heston upon his return from Munich

On the afternoon of September 30, 1938, a Lockheed 14 Super Electra, piloted by Victor Flowerday, touched down at the Heston Aerodrome west of London. Among the small group of passengers returning from Munich, Germany that day was Great Britain’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. The large crowd that had gathered at the airfield cheered Chamberlain’s announcement that both Germany and England had agreed to never again go to war. That ill-fated pact, known as the Munich Agreement, promised all of Europe a new peace and prosperity that would never come to pass. And less than a year after the Prime Minister’s  Downing Street declaration of “Peace for our time”, the dive bombing Stukas of Hitler’s Luftwaffe would lay waste to the city of Poland.

While initially it may have seemed that the British population as a whole celebrated Chamberlain’s efforts at ensuring peace, there were many who viewed it at as an attempt by Germany to lull the English people into a state of blissful status quo as the forces of fascism, ever lurking in the shadows, awaited their marching orders from Berlin. At the forefront of those who who spoke out against the Munich Agreement was the former First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. The man who would eventually replace Chamberlain as prime minister viewed this bargain with Hitler as a flawed policy of appeasement that would inevitably lead England into war, and a crisis of conscience for all those that believed in the rights of self-determination and democracy.

Today. as Americans head off to the polls, we are facing our own crisis of conscience. We must ask ourselves at what price prosperity?  For the sake of some promised growth and financial security, that, quite frankly, no president or congress can guarantee, will we ignore the plight and suffering of those beyond our borders?  Will we fail to address those issues and concerns that threaten our environment? Will we allow our fellow citizens to face financial ruin as a result of inaccessible and unaffordable healthcare? And will we continue to tolerate the blatant disregard of ethical behavior by those in power in exchange for a few more jobs in some coal mine?

Our values and principles hang in the balance. As Americans, if we do not stand for something, we will eventually stand for nothing–other than, perhaps, the national anthem at some meaningless Sunday afternoon football game

Mind you, I am not making a case for either the blue wave or a red tide at this particular political crossroads. If water is to be the metaphor of choice, I’m putting my faith in the constant stream. That stream in which swims the vast majority of Americans who are reasonable, rational, responsible, and always ready to work toward the common good in spite of our differences and varying opinions.

For the most part, historians have not looked upon Neville Chamberlain favorably. But there are a handful who believe that his compromise with the Germans in 1938 bought England the time it needed to rearm and make ready for the unavoidable conflict that lie ahead. And for whatever reason, the wiser minds at Morrison Bowmore Distillers did opt to include Mr. Chamberlain in their commemorative Prime Ministers series of very fine 15-year old blended Scotch whiskies.

So as I watch the incoming returns on this election eve, I will raise a glass to the well-intentioned efforts toward peace put forth by Mr. Chamberlain, but my glass will be filled with a spirit drawn from the well of Mr. Churchill.

“If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another.”    Winston Churchill

Mr. Churchill

Mr. Churchill

 

Mr. Chamberlain

Mr. Chamberlain

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

 

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The Morning After Last Night’s Casualties

home-bar

Somewhere on the other side of 3 am, I finally decided to make last call at my home bar. There was little resistance considering I was the only one left standing. This session would yield little solace other than the civil and somewhat gracious tone of Donald Trump’s victory speech after Hillary Clinton’s telephone call acknowledging her defeat.

Unable to sleep, I would return to the television set a few short hours later to see how America was faring after the revolution. Much to my surprise, the early morning pundits had not been cancelled or beheaded. At worst, they were eating their crow with good humor as the “I told you so” side of the panel restrained their glee. And even  the stock market futures that had indicated a precipitous fall during the overnight opened on the upside. In fact, most companies trading on the Dow were enjoying healthy gains with one notable exception. Smith and Wesson had lost nearly 16% of its value.

A company that had benefited in part because of the irrational fears propagated by the NRA and right wing media may regret having a few less Democrats in power. It’s funny how sometimes you wind up losing even when you think you’ve won. Take heed Mr. Limbaugh.

As the morning progressed, leaders and politicians from both parties took to the airwaves to talk about unity, inclusion, and healing. By early afternoon, I was feeling somewhat optimistic again about our collective prospects. Our democracy had once more demonstrated its resilience and ability to peacefully pass power from one party to the other. And while I’m not a big fan of one group having all of the political marbles–recalcitrance, obstruction, and gridlock as excuses for not governing will have to be shelved until at least the 2018 midterm election.

So once again, my silver lining syndrome remains intact. And since I was born without a team gene, I’m open to the possibility of worthwhile policy being generated by either side of the political spectrum. But there remains a lingering sadness about this election, because it resembles a civil war more than a revolution. And while we didn’t sacrifice a single soul in the course of this particular domestic squabble, this nation lost some portion of its honor, dignity, and humanity along the way. And like both sides at the Battle of Gettysburg, we have to wonder if it was worth the cost?

Cannons at Gettysburg

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

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