Many of us recall the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. It isn’t a fable. It’s a true account of perhaps the most amazing expression of yuletide goodwill since the birth of the Christ child.
World War I was at its bloody worst that winter. But as Christmas approached, all along the European battle front French and English soldiers on one side and German on the other began emerging from their trenches to cautiously exchange holiday greetings. By Christmas Day, young men who had been busily trying to kill each other just days before were playing football and singing carols together in the strip known as No Man’s Land.
It was a dramatic bow by the soldiers to their shared humanity. All knew that when the holiday truce was over, the bloodshed would resume. But for those few days, the faith, love and spirit of peace that are the values of Christmas prevailed.
Let them do so again this year.
Americans are closing out one of the most divisive and bitter years in modern history. Political passions are burning brighter than the holiday lights. We’ve surrendered to hatred, our discourse is angry and accusatory, our personal relationships predicated on like-mindedness.
No matter which trench we are hunkered down in, the endless fighting has made us weary and wary of each other.
Christmas would be a good time to crawl out, cross the divide and shake hands, or perhaps even give a hug.
For a few days, perhaps we could stop obsessing about whether we hate Donald Trump or love him. Maybe we could set aside bickering over whether it’s Republicans who are dragging America to ruin, or Democrats who are keeping it from becoming great again.
Just like those World War I soldiers, let’s recognize that we share something larger than our differences. We are countrymen, human beings, children of God.
Set aside the poison of our politics and talk to each other with compassion and civility. Speak calmly and pause to listen.
Reunite with those who we’ve avoided since the fateful election of 2016. Understand that most people come to their opinions in the same way we do, through their personal experiences and background and careful consideration of the facts. They just sometimes end up in different places.
And that’s OK. We don’t have to agree with each other to love one another.
One leader can’t destroy our nation’s better nature, nor restore it. It’s up to us as individuals to hold tight to our values, to behave respectfully no matter what someone else is doing, and to keep our heads.
After Christmas, we may return to the trenches and take up the battle with the same insane intensity as before. But at least for a few days during this season of peace, love and goodwill, we can say we honored the spirit of the holiday. Even if just for nostalgia’s sake.