No Man’s Land

When you’re less than 5 miles from the White House, you can’t help but get patriotic over here. There are lots of reasons I’m not proud of our country right now, but when I see stories of Americans being captured in other countries and the legal processes in those places (or lack thereof), I am humbled. How fortunate I am to live and grow up in a place that gives humans the opportunity to be defended in court? It’s not perfect. Read one of my posts about it here. No system is. But we have rights people, and we can exercise them. “We the people” of the United States must stand together, embrace our diversities, and stop allowing hate and close-mindedness destroy the beautiful land we live in.

My husband works for a nonprofit government organization called Food for the Hungry (fh.org). Story after story show how nations and countries are shattered by crooked and perverted government. Women are oppressed. Children are worthless and disposable objects. Money and drugs prevail and control the systems. We have those injustices here, and if we’re not careful we are close to being seated at the same table. We don’t have to be afraid that our culture can turn that way, but we can fear for our own hearts to lean and applaud that position. It’s subtle, it’s easy to fall prey to, and it sneaks up and around like a dark cloud.

September 11, 2001 was one of the greatest tragedies our country has ever experienced, and many have written and spoken about how it is a day in history that has changed our country not in part but whole. At the same time, the horrors and pain we as a nation experienced through the terrorist attacks and revelation of evils against the U.S. brought on a striking wave of unity. Many wrote about the weeks and year following 9/11. Ask anyone where they were that day, the glossy, distant look hits, and the immediate somberness floods throughout the mind and soul. These same writers and voices have come back out yearning and urging others to come back to that place of unity. Where did it go? Did we as a nation get amnesia? Does it take another national tragedy to bring us back together?

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My pastor reminded us of a story in church on Sunday:

“During World War I, on and around Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies. On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire, but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.
Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing. At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.”

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Stepping into no man’s land unarmed takes grit and courage (Wonder Woman anyone?). That’s how many of us feel about stepping out and joining forces with someone who’s on the opposite side of the spectrum in our own country! That’s how we let these ideas and tensions get to us. Our jaws are set against one another, we’re ready to pounce and defensively remark on these political topics. Christmas is a beautiful reason to come together for tea, yet we have something much more unifying to consider. The United States of America is a symbol to the world of individuals coming together, despite our drastically different approaches, to develop a society that prospers holistically. We all love the idea, “the land of the free, the home of the brave,” and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and we know that none of that came without cost. We must continue to sacrifice and strive for those same principles every day. We must look one another in the eye, listen, and step forward to unify when it’s hardest. Let’s think of the future. Let’s continue to think of the legacy of future generations who can come in behind and be proud of the past voters, leaders, and workforce.

Let’s step into no man’s land. Let’s approach people on the other side. Let’s join and celebrate together our freedom and blessings as a country and learn to embrace the uniqueness we all have. Is that not what the formation of this country was all about? To include those without freedoms, to unite despite differences, and to rally together to fight for freedom within these states.

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – President John F. Kennedy

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