Here in the United States, this Christmas will mark the fourth festive season in which our military men and women are stationed in Iraq. It will be the sixth Christmas they’ve been in Afghanistan.
It hardly needs to be stated but the absence of so many of our finest young men and women casts a long shadow. Christmas in many American homes will be less than it should be as a result of great distance and daily uncertainty.
For those who have lost loved ones, Christmas has to be an especially tough time. If we can’t offer direct support to the families of those who have died serving their country, we can at least offer our thoughts and prayers.
It was a commonly held view at the beginning of World War I that “it would all be over by Christmas.”
Wars, however, do not cleave to apparently appropriate calendar dates. That first global war, great only in the most negative sense of the word, went on through four yuletides and almost reached a fifth.
So we find ourselves in familiar territory with our present-day conflicts. At least, with the arrival of the Christmas season, we can remind ourselves that the better human aspirations do extend well above the mire, that we do still believe in the supremacy of peace, even if holding on to it is like confining water in a sieve.
By contrast to the furies raging in the Middle East and beyond, the conflict in Northern Ireland seems but a murmur. But it’s not a murmur that is particularly hard to discern and isolate. You can easily pick up the echoes of squabbling and discord despite the wide Atlantic.
Some of the North’s politicians and paramilitary bosses should decamp to Iraq for a while, then return to their verdant corner of the world and give blessed thanks for not just the chance of a lasting peace, but also its near proximity.
It can only be hoped that the spirit that Christmas brings with it will be used by the North’s politicians in 2007 to better reflect on the opportunity that history is extending to them; or at least trying to.
Meanwhile, Christmas itself has been in a kind of front line, that of the so-called culture wars. Regardless of how you refer to it in a greeting, we trust, nevertheless, that all can share in the nobler sentiments we associate with this season.
So to all our readers, a Very Merry and Peaceful Christmas, Nollaig Shona, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.