“The outcome of this war won’t be decided tonight. I don’t think anyone would criticize us for laying down our rifles on Christmas Eve.”
– Lieutenant Gordon, Joyeux Noel
The Christmas Truce of 1914 is, I think, one of the better moments of humanity’s history, for the humanity that was found among enemy soldiers. These were men who had been sent to kill each other and had, mere moments before, been shooting at each other. These were brave men, loyal to their countries and obedient to their superiors, and they were wading through Hell itself in the Great War. But on that night of Christmas Eve, they united as Christians, and as humans, in peace, respect, and brotherly love. It was a magnificent moment.
Unfortunately, Gordon’s words were a bit too optimistic.
See, the entire situation of World War I was an absolute mess. There were no clear heroes and villains for history to revere or revile. It was just a horrific domino effect that brought the nations of Europe into a mutual slaughter. I can hope that the people in charge of all the armies were resolved to try and achieve their objectives and restore peace as quickly and effectively as possible, but the bulk of the blood shed in any war is by common soldiers. To that end, the soldier must be willing to kill “the enemy,” and do so without hesitation or pity. That is why everyone involved in war gets so damaged, because a piece of their humanity has to be turned off for a time, and they wade through absolute trauma like that.
Thus, no one in a position of authority could do anything but work against the effects of the Christmas Truce, else their cause and their soldiers would become even more damaged. That is how much of a mess war is.
That is how much of a mess the world is.
We are all at each others’ throats, it seems, over a wide array of disagreements. But, the thing is, we’re not actually at war with each other. We’re not being sent into battle, or sending others into battle. We’re not digging trenches or forming squares or dropping bombs or anything else. And yet, we are dehumanizing each other with alarming ease and frequency. And over what? Politics? Party? Rhetoric? Religion? What movies or boy bands we like?
Exactly where was the point that we stopped loving each other?
Black people and white people marched together against racist laws, and triumphed together, and yet now we have race riots galore. Men and women have always managed to exist in balance with each other, albeit in ways which changed from culture to culture, yet now both men and women are hated and the families we used to build together are being torn apart. People of every political party used to find common ground and enact laws for the public good, yet now we’re indoctrinated towards relentless hatred and a refusal to listen. We had dreams of nations working together across the globe to solve all of the problems of the human race by protecting the rights of all, yet even our forums of discourse have been turned towards oppression and misinformation.
We are not at war with each other, and yet the world is at war with itself.
That is a war that will not be decided overnight. But we can take the first step within ourselves and our communities: lay down our arms. To lay down our anger and our hatred, our temper and our fear, our pride and our need to be right. To instead, take up a song, as the men of the Christmas Truce did. They were joined by music, the language of the soul, and we must join together as well in a song of love, a melody of respect, a symphony of diversity as we remember the simple truth, that we are all human beings, none greater or lesser than any other.
Will we be criticized for it? Oh, yes. Most certainly. The world is a mess, and it cannot adapt easily as it tries to just keep functioning.
The choice must be to join in the song anyway, and keep the music of peace alive in our hearts.