All wars are horrors, but somehow I think WWI was a turning point. WWI started because leaders wanted war, they had been jonesing for war for decades. They still had that war glory thing going: attack, take territory, loot and brag. Even the regular people got pumped up, with a big boost from propaganda departments.
Then the Brits and Germans got bogged down in France, rotting in trenches, charging each other’s machine guns and getting cut to pieces, intestines festooning barbed wire and corpses rotting in the mud-for years.
It was the first time authorities took note of “shell shock” or PTSD, and as dazed soldiers lost their minds and wandered about, many were shot as deserters.
We have never so whole-heartedly bought into that glory-of-war thing since then. But in the midst of this hell on earth, humanity broke out one Christmas. First the German soldiers lit up some Christmas trees and sang “Silent Night.” Even without knowing the language, the Brits knew the tune and they sang Silent Night back in English.
On Christmas morning, men started coming out of the trenches and exchanging little gifts with the enemy; cigarettes and chocolate, whatever they had. They even played a game of soccer among the frozen corpses.
Adolph Hitler, who was there at the time, did not approve. It was dishonorable; honor was very important to him and he was one individual who bought into the glory of war thing right up to the bitter end of WWII.
But for a brief moment, in the midst of hell on earth, men showed that they still had hearts, that they could still see other men as humans like them selves, that Peace on Earth is at least possible-and that gives me hope.