Thursday, February 13, 2020

Microstory 1299: The Soldiers and the Ceasefire

If you’ve never heard of the Christmas Ceasefire, I’ll bring you up to speed. Starting on Christmas Eve in 1914, hostilities between British and German soldiers during the Great War (what you may know as World War I) halted temporarily. Opposing forces not only allowed each other to bury dead and repair trenches, but even came together to observe the holiday. They sang songs and played games in the area between their two sides—generally known as no-man’s land. I’ve heard this story told a million times, and in case you’re wondering, it’s not a fable. It really happened, and it happened as it’s been told. According to sources, I’ve never heard any embellishments or alterations, probably because the original story seems so beautiful on its own that it doesn’t need to be changed to teach the lesson. But what exactly is the lesson? Well, if everyone who has ever told it is to be believed, the magical Christmas truce is meant to teach us that we’re all human. We all have red blood, and we want the same things, and we don’t have to fight each other to get them. Those things are true, more or less—though I would contend that I don’t give a crap what species you are, or what color your blood is; I’m not going to hate you for who you are anyway. The problem is that the Christmas Ceasefire story is an absolutely dreadful means of teaching this lesson. Why? Well, because the British and Germans were killing each other on and before the 23rd, and they continued to kill each other well after the 26th. The war raged on, and did not end until November of 1918. It was also not exactly the last war ever.

There’s this Latin phrase people like to say: si vis pacem, para bellum. It translates to if you want peace, prepare for war. People hear phrases like this, and they’re so short and concise that they don’t really question whether they’re true or not. It’s another example of an aphoroid, which I mentioned in the introduction to this series. In this case, people believe the phrase to be true only because history is littered with war. That’s all we seem to know, but guess what? When I was three, I didn’t know that two plus two was four. I had to learn it later. I recognize that sounds reductive, but I feel the analogy stands. We can learn to live in a world without war. We can achieve peace without it, and we can maintain that peace without the threat of it. The world has been changing ever since it coalesced, and I see no reason for it to stagnate just because we’re here. So I don’t really have a revised version of the Christmas Ceasefire story, because I don’t believe the problem lies in the story itself, but what people have taken from it. It’s great that the soldiers took a break from killing each other for a couple days, and it’s great that it wasn’t an isolated incident. What’s terrible is that these nations felt the need to fight in the first place. Ceasefires should be rare, because war should be rare, if not completely a thing of the past. The human race was built on a foundation of violence and hate, but the thing about foundations is that they are not immutable. All we have to do is tear it all down...and build a better foundation in its place.

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