… a movie based on true accounts of the 1914 Christmas Truce’s which sprang up between enemy troops along various fronts during the First world War. Whilst aspects of this might seem completely unreal to those of us who weren’t there, strange and often unexplainable things happen during times of war. The irony never ceases to amaze me; when soldiers and circumstances are at their most brutal – humanity has this amazing tendency to shine on through it all.
To fraternise with the enemy in times of war was a punishable offense. Depending on the level of ‘fratenisation’, you could well have been shot for such a crime. During the Christmas of 1914, men from both sides of the line cam together to celebrate a moment of peace. Some played soccer (football), some sang, some exchanged gifts, some swapped stories, others shared family pictures, tried each other’s tucker and then drank whatever they could find. I’m guessing that nearly all of them ‘switched off’ (as hard as that might seem in a time of war) for just a small while. They might have stopped thinking with their reflexes; stopped snatching glimpses of their enemy over the edge of broken trenches; stopped squinting at them through the sights of their rifles; and mostly – just for a smally while – stared in absolute wonder as men from both sides might have smiled nervous smiles, and held out shaky hands.
I don’t mean to romanticise such an event – and yes – this movie might appear to do so in some ways, softening it all up some. It’s a movie after all – the director has to share an experience with you about a particularly brutal part of our collective world history. It doesn’t matter who you are, nor what your nationality might be – when war visits you – I’m guessing no two people will ever seem the same again. If history is any indicator it’s true – War is a bloody, senseless business, and people give their lives to take part in a process that most people – viewing it from well outside the ‘war-zone’ – shake their head, and wonder why it is, that history really does seem to repeat itself.
I sit at home – warm, well and healthy and often at this time of year, I reflect on things that might have been. Australia is an EXTREMELY lucky country. Aside from colonisation -and the horrors such an experience visited on this country and it’s many Aboriginal and Islander peoples (not to mention many of your own ancestors who were forcibly transported here under a cruel and harsh law) – we have never faced a fully fledged, occupying aggressor on our own soil. Australia was attacked by the Japanese Imperiel Forces during World War II, but this never became occupation. We have never – in our recent history – been invaded. Today’s Australian citizens (barring those migrants and refugees who have originally come from other war affected countries) know nothing of the horrors facing those who have had their homes, and lives completely torn apart by an invading and occupying ‘army’. We know nothing of the types of situations that turn your friends and neighbours against you,and we know nothing of the horrors that force people to leave their families behind – just so they might be given the tiniest opportunity to survive.
Our Australian way of life is a blessing. Can so many Australian’s really be so suprised that there are people who come from all over the world to live here; do any manner of things to be able to wash up upon our shores; pay any price – and I mean ANY price – just for a mere glimmer of hope, and the promise of safety? I think on those who sleep with one eye open out of necessity and habit. A full and safe night’s sleep isn’t available to all of us who inhabit this globe. The food will cover our Christmas table, and people will ask politely for this or for that – and no-one will go hungry. No-one will want for anything, people will sit back and relax afterwards – hoping for a afternoon siesta – just before they bugger off and annoy the other side of the family – as we often tend to do here in Oz.
I think of all those I know who are wearing a uniform right now. Your country or mine, and I remember a life in uniform where there but for the grace of God go I. If I had of made a different decision in my life at that time, maybe I’d be out there somewhere – doing a job that no one person has the right to ask you to do. A Christmas Truce is unlikely for these fellas out and about doing their job. Again – I’m not reflecting on the political position or decision that put them there – just the people, and how well they cope with the cards life has dealt them. I don’t wish this on anyone. I don’t wish any of the horrors out there on ANY person at all – I simply wish we could realise the absolute waste of it all, and stop aiming to kill or maim others in the name of one thing or the other.
Christmas is a time to think on others. Wherever possible, it’s a time to hold those you love close to you, and celebrate them. If you can, you mightn’t realise just how lucky you are – many out there can’t… in fact many here in Oz can’t -and it doesn’t hurt us Aussies to remember this, wherever you may be.
Peace and Joy to All – or so I hope – Merry Christmas!
Belongum – Out!