Ninety-nine years ago, in history’s most famous and curious soccer game, German soldiers beat their British counterparts 3-2 between the icy trenches of Flanders. World War I was barely five months old when a Christmas Truce spontaneously broke out along parts of the western front. Featuring carol singing and the intermingling of troops in “no man’s land”, the lull appears to have been entirely the initiative of young enlisted men. By Dec. 27th each side was back in its own trenches trying to annihilate the other. Infuriated high commands ensured such fraternization would never happen again, nationalist propaganda machines set out to dehumanize an enemy who lived only yards away, and Europeans killed each other by the millions in history’s most senseless war. I thought of this story driving home from dropping my son at the airport, listening to news that told of nothing but war and violence: South Sudan, Thailand, Beirut. And yet, I read that the world has never been more peaceful, that statistically, the violence we commit against each other continues its centuries-long decline. How do we square that with the news – and with the foreboding we feel, even in our own relative safety? Is humanity's natural state that of war or community? Part of the answer lies in the trenches. Those in them stopped to celebrate Christmas. Those behind them insisted on war. “I'm fed up with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in,” said George McGovern.
We need to choose peace.