This is a song (written by John McCutcheon) that’s been around since 1989, and you pretty much have to be a pacifist to have heard it. On Christmas Eve 1914, British and German soldiers crossed the trenches into No Man’s Land and had a truce for several hours. They even had a soccer game. Soldiers exchanged cigarettes and chocolates, and took each other’s addresses and promised to write once the war was over. It is clear from the notes and transcripts from the high commands of the various armies that this event struck blind white fear into the hearts of the generals (and the politicians they worked for). The last of the veterans of the Christmas truce died a few years ago, but the story lives on through this song.
It’s been a tough year–I’ve had some surprises and successes, but also some setbacks, and there will be empty chairs at this year’s Christmas meals. And the maelstrom of news coming down right now ranges from the petty (the budget fights) to the horrific (the shootings at Newton). It’s hard to give credence to the idea that most people are good.
I’ve posted a second video here–a more historic view of the war and the event of the Christmas in the Trenches in the context of WWI. As I noted, the commanders were made apoplectic by this event. What would happen if such truces became commonplace? The commanders tried various strategies to combat such fraternization, but the longer the war dragged on, the more the grunts of the opposing armies started to see their ‘enemies’ as kindred spirits stuck in a horrible situation that only the trench rats could comprehend. Eventually, the only strategy that seemed to be able to prevent such unofficial ‘truces’ was to transfer units around the line–a German and British (or French) regiment facing each other for a prolonged period came to honor certain rules of behavior. Transferring such units on a regular basis meant that strangers faced each other.
I don’t know how this works in the context of our current war (and our undeclared drone-war). the solution the modern Masters of War have come up with seems to be war at a distance–drone strikes don’t betray much in the way of intimacy, and bombers don’t see the consequences of their actions on the ground. I offer this as a prayer for peace.
Pax. Shalom. Salaam. Namaste.
And Merry Christmas.