Saturday, November 11, 2006

Armistice Day, Constant Sorrow

Today is Saturday, 11 November 2006, Armistice Day.


By Christmas Eve, 1914, the trench line disfigured Western Europe from Switzerland to the English Channel. Millions of infantry lived amidst mud, rats, and their own excrement, to the greater glory of their rulers, or perhaps their homelands, or perhaps glory, or perhaps virtue, or perhaps survival.

Then, on Christmas Eve, as night fell, at various points along the line, heart-sick, home-sick soldiers began to sing Christmas carols. Soon, they began calling Christmas greetings across No Man’s Land. Now, in those early days of the war, No Man’s Land was not the hell of multiple barbed-wire fences and fields of land mines that it would soon become.

Braver individuals or perhaps foolhardy, or perhaps just human, soldiers began to venture out into No Man’s Land: “I got some good British whiskey here; anybody over there got some schnapps?” “Komarade: I haff some good Deutsche zigaratten; anyone over there got Export A?” And, at many points along the line, to the horror of their officers, enlisted men, and even NCOs, rose from the trenches, met in No Man’s Land, and began to talk, exchange gifts, even play soccer by the light of the moon.

In some places, they helped each other recover and bury their dead.

The Christmas Truce extended through the next day, and, in some places, through New Year’s.

Then all returned to the work at hand, of butchery.


“The master class has always declared the war; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose --- especially their lives.”
--- Eugene Victor Debs (1918)


I can offer sympathy, empathy, pity, and sorrow for those who fight, but I cannot offer honour, even for those who fight in necessary defense, for I believe that all killing is sin. (I mean sin in a philosophical, ethical sense, not theological.)

Armistice Day is a day for remembrance.

Armistice Day is every day, for throughout human history there has been ceaseless warfare.

And so I offer constant sorrow.


What if all of us, humans everywhere, declared a Christmas Truce, a whatever truce, and said, we will not kill for any reason?

"You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one ..."


Post a Comment

<< Home