Gary Horton | For Just a Moment, We Actually Governed Together

Gary Horton

Most have heard the (true) story of the World War I “Christmas Truce” of Dec. 24-25, 1914. Well before the worst of the horrors of WWI, but after months of misery in rainy, muddy, snow-filled trenches, troops on both sides were exhausted and hoping for peace. Christmas itself posed a unique motivation for peace as both British and German soldiers were Christian, observing most of the same, deepest held beliefs.  

And so, without direct approval from authorities further up the command chain, German troops first put out Christmas trees outside the trenches on their side and on Christmas day, emerged from their trenches waving empty hands identifying themselves as unarmed, and meaning no harm. In short order, troops from both sides exited their entrenched positions to meet one another in the no-man’s land separating the combatants. English and Germans sang hymns, drank, exchanged gifts, shared stories and recognized their common cultures and common lives… as fellow men, humans. Just regular people interested in common things. “Live and let live,” as their behavior was described. 

Of course, this kind of “fraternizing with the enemy” is sorely discouraged by those who run wars and keep up the killing of “the bad guys.” In war, it’s more the leaders wanting the killing than the common man thrown into the front lines as fodder and expendable chess pieces. None other than Adolf Hitler, a war communication runner at the time, commented of the “Christmas Truce,” “Have you no German sense of honor?… Such a thing should not happen in wartime.” 

This is the ultimate requirement of faithful followers of any regime. “Do as you’re told and hold the battle line.” 

“This fight is for God and country.”  

Following Christmas Day, violence returned to the Western Front. The realities of war and the dug-in war thinking of national leaders soon enough had all sides back in full conflict, only to suffer the ever-increasing misery, with gas warfare and rampant disease and millions of deaths… dragging on, all the way to 1918. 

Roll forward 103 years to the time of the Culture Wars, when Americans battle between ourselves, committed to “holding our party lines.” We’re dug into our miserable political trenches and our leaders don’t want us cavorting with our mortal enemies on the “other side of the aisle.” It’s Red versus Blue, with each viewing the other as combatants for the very soul of America, as political leaders whip emotions up with the usual dog whistles and rallying calls of abortion, gun rights, bathroom access, sex rights, and a newly popular emotion inflamer: stolen elections.  

How we’ve been made to embrace these trenches of culture wars – forever fighting against each other over issues more emotional that substantive, ensuring nearly nothing brings us together to achieve anything positive of help to us all. While deep inside, like the soldiers of the Christmas Truce, we may wish to rise, shake hands and sing with soldiers from the other side, our party leadership keep us fighting in ditches of miserable political mud.  

But now a miracle happened right before our eyes! Brave congressfolk from both sides rose from their fortified positions, separating from their respective party lines, to create and celebrate common interest eye to eye. If only for a few short days, America came together to functionally govern. 

This past week, the House passed H.R.3684 – the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, otherwise known as the transportation and infrastructure bill.  

Remarkably, the bill passed with significant movement and collaboration between party members of both sides. Indeed, the Senate had already voted 69-30 to pass the much-needed investment in American infrastructure. Now, the House passed the bill 228-206, with 13 Republicans voting in favor and six Democrats voting against. 

High fives and hugs for the members of Congress showing the courage and common humanity to break from Central Culture War Command and rise to work with each other for the common good. No doubt, the 13 Republican heroes are facing blowback and calls of political treason for “cavorting with the enemy.” No doubt, the six Democrat objectors are ostracized for leaving their trenches of “Party Loyalty.” 

“Loyalty, schmoloydy,” I say. Forget our damn political trenches and let’s rise from continuous culture war and work together. Most of us want the same things, we’re just stuck as our war leaders don’t want us shaking hands and exchanging the bounteous gifts America can bring. For fractured parties lead to fractured power for party leaders. 

The infrastructure bill is certainly not perfect, nor is it enough to address all needs. But, according to how it’s reckoned, the $566 billion-$1.2 trillion package breathes much-needed life into sorely suffering infrastructure. America needs to modernize the infrastructure binding us together… 

And while not as remarkable as 1914, we just witnessed a political “Christmas Truce” of sorts, as sufficient political soldiers braved friendly fire to give to America a gift of a bill designed to improve all our lives. 

What a wondrous sight! Politicians governing, instead of forever firing off salvos of insults and accusations in our endless culture war.  

May we have much more of this both human and brave, beneficial collaborating going forward! After all, we’re not really all that different. Not worth staying perpetually at war for.  

Congratulations, America, on passage of the new and needed transportation bill. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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