Editor’s note: Readers of the Internet must no doubt be aware that there is a War on Christmas—one that has raged year after year. But for many of us, that battle remains abstract. Sometimes you can forget it’s actually real. Which is why the Daily Dot is proud to publish this anonymous soldier’s accounts of the front line as he fights for what’s right.
The shit begins early. I move my boot around uselessly in the foxhole to try and regain purchase. It’s another day in this god-forsaken War on Christmas and I’m sifting through empty Starbucks cups with names written in wet, weeping ink. The names cry out from the earth like the voices of fallen brothers: “Merry Christmas,” “Baphomet,” “Dennis.” The enemy has matched our shelling of these cups round for round for the past three months. There’s no clear winner today, as my boot crushes equal numbers of “The Lord is Risen” and “Satan.” What are we here for?
We were shaken awake before dawn by heaving bouts of artillery. I jumped up from sleep and heard thick, sickening thuds landing around me. Last-minute catalogs, dropped by enemy war pigeons. One fell across my helmet, nearly denting it, and I was grateful I’d stripped the thing off of a corpse I’d buried in the muck a week ago. I reached down to grab the wad of coupons and advertisements. I spit, slid a cigarette into my mouth, and chanced death to dip my head above the line and heave the parcel back towards the enemy. A thunderous blast threw me back into the hole. When I regained my equilibrium I realized it wasn’t an enemy shell repaying my tantrum. My line mate had blown his hands off with a live grenade as he stared at a smiling family in a Kroger’s ad. The propaganda had gotten to him, I guess. The medic took him back to the field hospital, where he was sure to suffer more. Maybe he’d imagine the eyes of his family as they took his forearms off at the elbow with a dirty saw.
I shook my head, grabbed another cigarette, and watched the wasteland for signs of enemy movement. The word down the line was that today was going to be excruciating, with planned raids from both sides happening continuously. I groaned as I realized what this meant; the senselessness of this warfare was weighing on me. Just yesterday I’d been eating well and writing letters home expressing my thanks to my family for their love. Today, however, was a turning point in this conflict, and I could tell from the energy emanating through the cold fog that we were going to pay a heavy price. The others are referring to it as Black Friday after last year’s heavy casualties. We are as much in fear of our own troops trampling us as we are of running into the teeth of the foe. I will sleep well when this day is over, in death or in exhaustion.
The little drummer boy was shot in the face this evening when he began his parumpa-pum-pum on the east flank’s wall. The hollow-tip entered the back of his skull and the blood dripped quietly against the taut skin of his drum for a moment before he crumpled. The sound was like a clock ticking out the final seconds of my existence.
A raid. In the enemy trenches I grabbed a man by the throat who screamed out in pain and thrust both hands into his jacket pockets to produce a Flying Spaghetti Monster car magnet and a Gideon’s Bible. I intensified my grip on his esophagus as I tried to suss out the meaning of this moment. I searched his eyes, which cringed in pain, and found, simply, fear. This man had no moral prerogative in this war. As I relaxed a bit, another soldier from my unit put his sidearm against the man’s head and blew his brains against the wooden belly of the enemy trenches. I let go and the body slumped to ground. I was sick immediately, and the convulsions felt like individual punches to my gut. Who was this person to die in my hands? What did they believe? What did I believe? Before I could fully regain my senses the whistles blew and we were back over the top, running like hell through the killing zone to the safety of our lines.
I lay sick for a number of hours until members of my company approached me, grinning. One of them held a mud-spattered Flying Spaghetti Monster car magnet in their hand. I stared them hard in the eyes until they moved on amid mutters of weakness and shell-shock. But I knew the truth. I’d seen the reality of our situation. I didn’t give one shit about “The Reason for the Season” or “Freedom FROM Religion,” just like that man over there hadn’t. Nobody here was making a decision for themselves. We were marched into combat, and it didn’t matter a single bit what we truly believed. I hid my tears as I began to pace out of frustration, only pausing once as my boot scattered a rat warren made from red Starbucks cups. One of them had my name written on it, but perhaps I was simply imagining.
Christmas Day truce. It is a joyous day and almost unthinkable. From the cold, clear dawn comes the sound of the enemy singing “Jingle Bell Rock.” We are all moved to tears and begin in earnest to match their beatific voices. Our COs wave lights of peace and approach each other in the midst of the battlefield. They shake hands, smoke, and nervously bounce on their heels in the cold. Not able to take it anymore, I rise from the trenches and follow. My company follows, and soon we are weeping, shaking hands, and showing our enemies our family photographs. It is as though the shallow rhetoric for this massacre was burned away by the morning sun. We play a game of catch and share alcohol. When we retire the whole experience is so surreal that I can only suppose we are either dead or just awakening from a nightmare. Perhaps the truth of today will pierce the future and relieve us all from this horrific monotony. I weep as I fall asleep.
The first man I saw in the morning was the first man shot. He tumbled onto me, waking me up, and as the life poured from his torn-open neck I knew we’d be here another year, dug in, relearning the same bullshit we’d always known. The War on Christmas is never lost or won; it simply continues unabated. We live hoping to remember and forget who we truly are.
Photo via DVIDSHUB/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed