The Christmas Truce

You all know the story, but even if you don’t that’s OK, because I’m going to tell it again anyway.

Europe, 1914. Christmas week.

For months now, vast armies had battled across the face of the continent, each racing to outflank the other. Along the Western Front, the race had stopped for lack of room, and a continuous line of trenches ran from Switzerland to the North Sea. By Christmas, things had somewhat stabilized. Gas attacks and mass artillery barrages were still in the future, and the soldiers themselves still had great sympathy for the fellows in the trenches on the other side.

There were few formal truces; in fact, it would have been contrary to standing orders. And yet, spontaneously, all along vast segments of the lines, soldiers stood up and waved to each other, climbed out of their entrenchments, and walked singing across No Man’s Land. When the armies met in the middle, men embraced and exchanged presents. Stories abound of small parties, and even impromptu football games, as peace spread on its own up and down the lines.

It was not to last, alas. In some sectors, firing began again at nightfall; in a very few the unnatural quiet lasted until New Year’s Day. Soon, the entire front was plunged back into bloody conflict.

But for a very short time, peace had won the day.

We who revel in war games are a unique breed. Some of us are ardent nationalists, certainly, but there’s also no shortage of utopians, globalists, and idealists of every stripe. We are all, however, students of war — of strategy, tactics, and even psychological operations. We’re also one of the largest congregations of very smart people that I’ve ever seen — brilliant, but terribly different, each one of us.

There is a truism that applies: The more a person learns about war, the more they understand it, the more fervently that person tends to oppose its practice. In games it is the field of honor, but in reality it is the field of life and death, the place where the destiny of nations is decided, and where millions of young men go to be slaughtered. War has been an endless cycle of death throughout history, only punctuated occasionally by local eruptions of peace.

One would think humanity would learn — and yet, even today, more than a century after the death of an entire generation in the War To End All Wars, the news is still filled with words like collateral damage and fallout, death tolls and occupations. The only thing that has changed, it seems, is that the weapons have become more ubiquitous — and more deadly.

Part of why I spend so much time at Nu is to study war in the company of my fellows, and in a manner that hurts no one. The more I learn about war, the more likely I am to know what I can do to help prevent it in the future.

In keeping with that sentiment, I wish to offer the following wish this Christmas:
May those of us who practice only virtual war learn to embrace peace in our real lives, and help to spread the sentiment this Christmas season and beyond.

Merry Christmas from the Planets Magazine!

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