Monday, February 16, 2009

Bust up over Churchill bust

They're a bit perplexed in Britain why President Obama has decided to give back a bust of Winston Churchill on loan to the United States:

"A bust of the former prime minister once voted the greatest Briton in history, which was loaned to George W Bush from the Government's art collection after the September 11 attacks, has now been formally handed back.

"The bronze by Sir Jacob Epstein, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds if it were ever sold on the open market, enjoyed pride of place in the Oval Office during President Bush's tenure.

"But when British officials offered to let Mr Obama to hang onto the bust for a further four years, the White House said: 'Thanks, but no thanks.'"

The Telegraph article goes on to speculate why the President doesn't want to keep the artwork:

"Churchill has less happy connotations for Mr Obama than those American politicians who celebrate his wartime leadership. It was during Churchill's second premiership that Britain suppressed Kenya's Mau Mau rebellion. Among Kenyans allegedly tortured by the colonial regime included one Hussein Onyango Obama, the President's grandfather."

Well hey, as long as we're guessing that the reason for the decision has to do with kinship, we've got to ask the obvious question if maybe Obama's not so keen on Churchill because the acclaimed British Prime Minister is related to George W. Bush.

You didn't know Bush is related to Churchill? It came as a surprise to Churchill's grandson, Winston S. Churchill, as well. He edited The Great Republic: A History of America, a collection of his grandfather's notable writings about the United States. In the preface to the volume, the younger Churchill writes that as a result of his genealogical research:

"(I) was fascinated to discover that Winston Churchill, at ten generations removed, had not one, but three, ancestors who sailed on the Mayflower and who were among the mere fifty who survived the rigours of that first winter on the inhospitable shores of New England... I was further intrigued to learn that, through them, we are linked to no fewer than three Presidents of the United States--Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and George Bush..." (p. xi).

The Great Republic was first published in 1999. The next year, George Bush's son was elected President, so that makes George W. a fourth chief executive related to the Churchills.

Of course, I'm not accusing President Obama of consciously shunning Churchill because of his shared lineage with Bush; I'm just sharing a point the Telegraph might have made once they chose to bring family into it.

On the other hand, maybe a bit more research would show that Obama and Bush are related too. Wouldn't that be something having them show up at the same family reunion. Obama would be the control freak who insists everyone wear an ugly bright yellow tee shirt; Bush would be the wacky cousin who after loading up on hot dogs and baked beans asks every child present to pull his finger.

1 comment:

John Cowan said...

We're all related: fiftieth cousins at most, if I recall correctly. "When Adam dalf [delved] and Eve span [spun] / Who was then the gentle [noble] man?" is still true even now that actual human prehistory is known.