I’ve just been to see ‘Dunkirk’, the new war film by Christopher Nolan that everyone is talking about. Reviews are popping up all over the place – some praising the cinematography, some criticizing the emotion and connection between the characters. Whilst I generally agree with these points and the rightful critique the film has received, I think there are a few much deeper issues we have to look at here.
For those who don’t know yet: The film is staged in Dunkirk, France in 1940, not even a year after the second world war started and Nazi Germany invaded France. Trapped on a beach, 300,000 men rely on others to come and rescue them from the Germans, who move ever closer to the beach. In the Battle of Dunkirk, which lasted 10 days (26th May – 4 June 1940), about 85,000 British and French soldiers were killed.
Here’s what’s wrong with ‘Dunkirk’. Firstly, the film completely failed to highlight how instrumental black people and Indians were in the Dunkirk evacuation. The movie literally whitewashed the entire happenings and dismissed the bravery of many who put their lives at risk. Besides that, I think there is a much more important point to make. This is where the European Union comes into the story.
Only about seventy years ago, Europe was divided, in ruins and desperate. From the ashes of a war-torn continent came a sense of unity, togetherness, and need for peace. That way of thinking set the groundworks of the European Union as we know it today. In 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community (a.k.a. ECSC) was formed, and later in 1957 the European Economic Community. For the first time, European countries were working with each other, not against each other. Point is, the European Union was formed so something like this never, ever happens again. If 27 countries are able to come together and make peace with each other after many years of active war, then anything is possible. I much rather prefer a Europe that works together, sits around a table and debates issues, rather than pointing weapons at each other.
Do you ever wonder what you would have done to fight off the Nazis in the 1930/40s? Well, now’s your chance to find out. Whilst neo-Nazis hijack our political system and stoke the flames of modern-day Nazism, we have a duty to fight back against the toxic narrative and anyone who promotes it – at all measures. One of those “fighters” was Heather Heyer. She, along with other peaceful anti-fascist activists, was defending the liberties and freedoms of all Americans in Charlottesville. Her life was cut short when a white supremacist drove a car into the crowd. The President of the United States, Donald John Trump, chooses to side with these people and won’t denounce the rhetoric or the actions that go hand in hand with it.
The movie ‘Dunkirk’ reminds us of what we don’t want to go back to and why the fight for staying in the European Union, this magnificent peace project, is so important. Brexit is by no means a “triumph of democracy”. It’s a triumph of noisy, prejudiced and isolationist politics. It’s a triumph of bigots, racists, liars, and xenophobes. The same narrative that sparked both world wars in the first place has now been “normalized” by the current President of the United States and various high profile politicians here in the UK. It’s disgusting to see this happen in the 21st century. We are seeing history repeating itself, and it’s not a pretty picture.
As human beings, we all have a moral duty to speak out keep fighting for what is right – against nationalism, xenophobia, and the politics of hate and fear, against the politics that put Donald Trump into the White House and against the politics that made Brexit an imminent threat to our way of life.