Winston Churchill, Scott Kelly, And Racism: Grow Up, Everybody

The Long March
Wikimedia Comons

Some thoughts on this tweet from astronaut Scott Kelly apologizing for using a Winston Churchill quote:


Churchill saved the West in 1940. But he also was a man of his time, and an imperialist to boot. He said racist things. Likewise, George Orwell wrote bizarrely anti-Semitic stuff at times. He also is pretty bad writing about women — some of the scenes in ‘1984’ are cringeworthy.

Conclusion: People are complex and flawed.

Moreover, we should be wary of “presentism” — that is, judging people of another time by the standards of today. I’d hate to be judged by the standards of 200 years from now.

“Ricks never took up arms against climate change, even when it was clear that it was the top global priority. He even continued to eat meat. Let’s liquidate his books.”

In this vein, my wife, who wrote a terrific book about the largest attempted slave escape in American history, argues for a distinction between people who owned slaves (pretty much anyone with any money in the American South in the 18th and 19th centuries) and people who fought to maintain the system of slavery (for example, Robert E. Lee).

So, by her standard, it is OK to retain the name of a city named for Stephen Austin, but not to keep a road named for General Lee.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid $13,000 over a three-month period for a senior official's biweekly commute to Washington from his home in California, according to expense reports obtained by ProPublica.

Read More Show Less
Saturday Night Live/screenshot

President Donald Trump said that "retribution" should be "looked into" after this week's opening skit of Saturday Night Live featured Alec Baldwin being mean to him again.

Read More Show Less
Staff Sgt. John Eller conducts pre-flights check on his C-17 Globemaster III Jan. 3 prior to taking off from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii for a local area training mission. Sgt. Eller is a loadmaster from the 535th Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

CUCUTA, Colombia — The Trump administration ratcheted up pressure Saturday on beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, dispatching U.S. military planes filled with humanitarian aid to this city on the Venezuelan border.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speaks at the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) - Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Saturday he had not yet determined whether a border wall with Mexico was a military necessity or how much Pentagon money would be used.

President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border without congressional approval.

Read More Show Less
A pair of U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat aircraft from Fighter Squadron VF-211 Fighting Checkmates in flight over Iraq in 2003/Department of Defense

Since the sequel to the 1986 action flick (and wildly successful Navy recruitment tool) Top Gun, was announced, there's been a lot of speculation on what Top Gun: Maverick will be about when it premieres in June 2020. While the plot is still relatively unclear, we know Tom Cruise will reprise his role as Naval aviator Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, and he'll be joined by a recognizable costar: The iconic F-14 Tomcat.

It looks like the old war plane will be coming out of retirement for more than just a cameo. A number of recently surfaced photos show an F-14 Tomcat aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, alongside Cruise and members of the film's production crew, the Drive's Tyler Rogoway first reported earlier this week.

Read More Show Less