Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Christmas Truce of 1914

One of the most remarkable and moving stories in the long, sad history of warfare is that of the Christmas Truce of 1914, which was a spontaneous expression of peace and good will between British and German soldiers in the trenches. Laying down their arms, they came together in no man's land to exchange gifts, sing Christmas carols, and even to play soccer.

British and German troops standing together on Christmas Day, 1914.

After looking into each others eyes, and seeing that they had far more in common with each other than with the bloodthirsty politicians and generals who had sent them to war, they had to be threatened with court martial by the powers that be to make them go back to the grim, insane business of killing each other - for what?

Here is the snopes urban legends page on this incredible story (which Snopes properly lists as "true" because it did indeed happen). And here is another account:

The meeting of enemies as friends in no-man's land was experienced by hundreds, if not thousands, of men on the Western Front during Christmas 1914. Today, 90 years after it occurred, the event is seen as a shining episode of sanity from among the bloody chapters of World War One – a spontaneous effort by the lower ranks to create a peace that could have blossomed were it not for the interference of generals and politicians.

And here is an especially moving video and song dedicated to the men of the Christmas Truce, where the artist who wrote the song recounts how very, very old German veterans of the Christmas Truce came to hear him play and sing the song in Belgium. It is a real tear jerker.

A Carol from Flanders
by Frederick Niven (1878-1944)

In Flanders on the Christmas morn
The trenched foemen lay,
the German and the Briton born,
And it was Christmas Day.

The red sun rose on fields accurst,
The gray fog fled away;
But neither cared to fire the first,
For it was Christmas Day!

They called from each to each across
The hideous disarray,
For terrible has been their loss:
"Oh, this is Christmas Day!"

Their rifles all they set aside,
One impulse to obey;
'Twas just the men on either side,
Just men — and Christmas Day.

They dug the graves for all their dead
And over them did pray:
And Englishmen and Germans said:
"How strange a Christmas Day!"

Between the trenches then they met,
Shook hands, and e'en did play
At games on which their hearts were set
On happy Christmas Day.

Not all the emperors and kings,
Financiers and they
Who rule us could prevent these things —
For it was Christmas Day.

Oh ye who read this truthful rime
From Flanders, kneel and say:
God speed the time when every day
Shall be as Christmas Day.

No truer statement has been made than that of World War I Marine Major General Smedley Butler , one of the most highly decorated Marines in history (he won two Medals of Honor!) when he declared that "war is a racket."

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."
He was speaking from his experience in World War I, but his warning stands the test of time. As Major General Butler asked, who makes the profits? Who pays the bills? You know the answer. - Stewart

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is my favorite time of year for many reasons: time with close family, a time of excitement and joy for my children, a time to reflect upon the year coming to a close and to think of the year yet to come.

But chief among the reasons I enjoy Christmas so much is that it is a time of relative peace, when even people who are otherwise bloodthirsty bastards at least make a showing of remembering "the Prince of Peace" and what He actually stood for - Peace on earth, and goodwill to men.

The Prince of Peace.

Don't get me wrong, I consider myself a warrior who is always ready to defend family, hearth, home, country, and liberty against the predations of evil men, be they foreign or domestic, but that does not mean I have to enjoy the prospect of having to take up arms against my fellow man, who I wish would simply leave me and mine alone, in peace. But alas, "some men you just can't reach" with reason. Some men only respect and fear force. But that does not mean we need to become unreasoning brutes ourselves. And our willingness to stand and fight does not mean we cannot pray for peace and have good will toward all men, hoping they will see the light so we do not have to fight. Let us pray for peace, even if we must prepare for war.

One of my all-time favorite Christmas carols is It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, which was written way back in 1849 by Edmund Sears, a pastor in the Unitarian Church in Weston, Massachusetts. This is truly a beautiful song that captures well the message of peace and hope for mankind, as well as the long, weary road of fear, strife, struggle and war that mankind has walked for so long, and still walks to this day. Sears wrote it in 1849, before the advent of modern weaponry that has made mankind's self-slaughter so much more "efficient." Below are the lyrics, and here is an especially beautiful rendition by Hall and Oats. If the embedded links won't play, then go here:

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats

O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The bless├Ęd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet seen of old,
When with the ever-encircling years
Shall come the time foretold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

When you listen to all of the lovely Christmas music, the theme is peace, love, forgiveness, compassion, and charity. To me, that is the heart and soul of Christ's message, and something that far too many people, who should know better, seem to forget the rest of the year.

So, here's to finding some way to keep the spirit of Christmas in our hearts even after the Christmas tree comes down - here's to Christmas 365 days of the year.

Stewart Rhodes and family.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Great article-How Real Is Ron Paul's Revolution?

Great article in a Philly paper

Joe Murray: The Right Time
How Real Is Ron Paul's Revolution?

How Real Is Ron Paul's Revolution?
A little under two decades have passed since the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan, left the White House and wrote the final chapter on one of America's most successful presidencies. And in the aftermath of those two decades, the party defined by Mr. Reagan has, updating the words of Theodore Roosevelt, become a tangle of squabbling ideologies.

The Republican Party is in a state of disrepair. Burdened by two terms of George W. Bush and still feeling the sting of being evicted from majority status in 2006, the Republican Party is a party without a compass. It is a party that has lost touch with its soul.

This author does not have any wide-eyed revisionist memories of an Ozzie and Harriet Republican Party where divisions were scarce and political harmony was uninterrupted. Since the early 1970s there has been a constant struggle between the Rockefeller Republicans - those who embrace Wall Street over Main Street - and the Reagan Republicans: God, country and apple pie Republicans.

But while those vying for power in the party may have disagreed on the political means utilized to advance GOP interests, it was safe to believe that everyone was in agreement on the ultimate end: an America that is independent, self-sufficient, secure, culturally united and free from foreign entanglements. This, however, is no longer the case.

Just take a glance at the Republican candidates seeking to fill the shoes of President Bush. Rudy Giuliani wants to spread the war in Iraq to Iran, while Ron Paul wants to bring the troops home. Mitt Romney touts the success of free trade agreements and Duncan Hunter calls for a trade policy that puts America first.

Read the full story here