This Christmas Eve story has always fascinated me. Hopeful and bittersweet. Men trying to be at their best in the middle of the worst. (This is pulled from today’s installment of The Writer’s Almanac.)
It was on this day in 1914 that the last known Christmas truce occurred along the Western Front during World War I. In the week leading up to Christmas, soldiers all over the battlefields had been decorating their trenches with candles and makeshift trimmings when groups of German and British soldiers began shouting seasonal greetings and singing songs to each other. On occasion, a soldier or two would even cross the battlefield to take gifts to the enemy. Then, on Christmas Eve, the men of the Western Front put the war on hold and many soldiers from both sides left their trenches to meet in No Man’s Land, where they mingled and exchanged tobacco, chocolate, and sometimes even the buttons from their own uniforms as souvenirs. They played games of football, sang carols, and buried fallen comrades together as the unofficial truce lasted through the night.
I read another commentary this morning about Newt Gingrich’s assertion that the Palestinians are “an invented people.” Here’s his original quote:
“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. We have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab people, and they had the chance to go many places.”
It occurred to me that the issue might be framed differently if we make a few substitutions: “America/n” for “Palestine/ian”; “British” for “Ottoman”; “European” for “Arab.” That is, Americans are an invented people, maybe more so than most other nations. We just have the advantage of 235 years.
So my question for Mr. Gingrich is: how much time does it take for an “invention” to be legitimate? Or is it just a matter of who wins their independence? (We win = we’re not invented. You lose or haven’t won yet = you are invented.)
Please understand I’m not forgetting about all the many differences and problems in the Middle East, many of the Palestinians’ own making. Right now I’m thinking here only about the issue of legitimacy v. “inventedness.” If the Palestinians are merely “invented,” then so are Americans and probably most other nations.