Many will remember the almost unbelievable story of perhaps the most famous Christmas truce ever. It was during World War I on the battlefields of Flanders. In that winter of 1914 what has been described as one of the most unusual events in human history occurred. Is it possible that we could have a similar truce in the political war that has been going on in this country for a while?
Let us take a moment to reflect on that holiday period during one of the more tragic wars in history. The Germans on one side and the British and the French on the other had been locked for days in one of the more fierce battles of the Great War. Both sides were ensconced in those infamous deep and muddy trenches that characterized warfare at the time. Strangely for the field of battle, tiny Christmas trees lit by candles began appearing over the mounds of mud at the top of the German trenches. The German troops began to sing Christmas carols that wafted into the ears of the French and British troops across the field of battle. Soon the British and French joined in.
A proposal by some of the English-speaking German soldiers for a Christmas truce was readily agreed to by their enemies. A spontaneous truce resulted. Soldiers from both sides crawled from their trenches and sloshed through the knee-deep coagulation of mud and blood to meet in the middle to shake hands. First, all three armies went to work burying their dead who had been previously unreachable. Then they exchanged gifts of chocolate, liquor and whatever else was available that might appeal to combatants from the other side. In some sections of the trenches rifles were exchanged for soccer balls, and it is said that games commenced, allowing the soldiers on all sides to briefly forget the misery of the conflict. But, according to journalist Stanley Weintraub, the Christmas-induced peace of that evening was destined not to last, and alas the soldiers ceased shooting their weapons into the night sky and once again began shooting at each other.
It occurred to me that during this season when many of the halls of the nation’s capital and of capitals in the states around the country are quiet and dimly lit, that we ourselves, as 2010 turns into 2011, might have a similarly miraculous Christmas truce. It could happen, couldn’t it? What are the possibilities of such an interlude? We can all dream a bit, can’t we?
After all, just as was the case way back in World War I, we know that it will not last. Would it be possible that incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner and new Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi go out for dinner and a dance on New Year’s Eve (spouses approving of course)? Think about all of the making-up that could take place to the strains of “Auld Lang Syne.”
Maybe also during the week between Christmas and New Years an end of the year political retrospective co-hosted by MSNBC’s Keith Olberman and FOXNEWS’ Sean Hannity could be presented. It would have to be presented twice since no one who watches FOX would dare turn to MSNBC, and certainly the reverse is true.
Also, picture the Tea Party crowd coming to the realization that Democrats represent the grassroots also, and they agree to embrace them and offer the assistance denied the Dems during the mid-term elections. Then there is Senate Minority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, after a restless night wrestling with the ghosts of past, present and future vowing to put all of the earmarks back into the new budget when the new Congress convenes. And then in the ultimate show of bipartisanship McConnell endorses President Obama’s candidacy for reelection in 2012. What if President Barack Obama agrees to go caribou hunting in Alaska with Sarah Palin, and then after their return Palin goes on record as supporting gun control legislation? And then Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito agrees to attend this year’s State of the Union address after all because President Obama agrees not to hurt the Supreme Court’s feelings during his speech.
In Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour directs the Mississippi Republican Party to give the Mississippi Democratic Party copies of all of their mailing lists and maps so that the 2011 elections will be in the governor’s words “more fun for all.” In return, the Democrats agree to support legislation allowing Gov. Barbour to run for one more term to show their heartfelt appreciation.
Now, you probably think all of this is little more than frivolity, but you need to think back to that Christmas Eve 96 years ago. Nothing could be better proof that anything is possible. But, alas, just as on that battlefield in Flanders in 1914, it is virtually inevitable that verbal bullets will once again begin whistling through the air. One can almost imagine the scream of “You lie!” echoing through the quiet halls of the Capital building as they lay only momentarily at rest.
Dr. William Martin Wiseman is director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and professor of political science at Mississippi State University. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.