Walking Side by Side

June 5, 2019 · Print This Article

I was off to America and the “bring me back” requests had already started. One of my colleagues begged me to get some of those moreish Cheeto crisps. Grudgingly, I said yes.

But when it came to perusing the aisles of one of those unapologetically huge US supermarkets, it was a magazine that caught my eye. Staring out at me at the checkout counter was a familiar English face. Splashed on the front cover was our very own Winston Churchill. ‘Churchill: A Leader for All Ages’, read the title. I bought it.

And today’s D-Day celebrations have prompted me to open its pages. Illustrating the life and legacy of this exuberant and energetic man in vivid detail, it told the story of the US-UK partnership that the current US President has already referred to on his State visit as an “extraordinary” relationship; the greatest alliance in the world.

This special alliance was forged in the furnace of war to defend against a common enemy. Just three weeks after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbour, Churchill, addressed the US Congress, the first British Prime Minister to do so. “In the days to come,” he soberly elucidated, “the British and American peoples will, for their own safety and for the good of all, walk together side by side in majesty, in justice and in peace.”

Should this not be the reason for alliances? For the purpose of peace. To protect the weak and vulnerable. This idea was echoed in the Queen’s speech at the recent State banquet.

But this alliance was hard won. Churchill had to work for it. The dynamic between him and the US President Roosevelt mattered to the world. The US had not yet entered the war when special advisor to the President, Harry Hopkins, came to meet Churchill in early 1941. “I suppose you wish to know what I am going to say to President Roosevelt on my return,” Hopkins said to Churchill. The free world needed America, and Churchill knew it. Hopkins said he would quote a passage from the book of Ruth in the Bible: “Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”[1] A tear came to the Prime Minister’s eye.

There’s a pertinence in quoting these words from the lips of a woman honoured for her loyalty. The book of Ruth tells the ancient story of this immigrant widow who left her home in modern-day Jordon to look after her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi had decided to travel back to her home country, Israel. At that time, the two countries were enemies, so Ruth’s alliance with Naomi served as protection to a weaker, more vulnerable individual at personal cost to herself.

This story reminds us of the reason why alliances of power should exist. They are there to help the weak and vulnerable even if it costs us something. Who do you know who is weak and vulnerable? Who you can ally with to help?

A last fun fact. The attitude of loyalty and love demonstrated by this immigrant Ruth would echo down through her descendants, finding its full expression in her great, great, great…great grandson, one of the most famous people who ever lived.

Can you guess his name? Jesus Christ.[2]

Notes:

[1] The Bible, Ruth 1:16 (KJV)

[2] The genealogy of Ruth, see Matthew chapter 1 and verses 1 to 16.

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