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Political Trench Warfare

If unity feels like a tall order right now, take heart. 

Angry words have left us with a national rupture that feels impossible to overcome. And given that our modern political system thrives on this kind of division, we shouldn’t be surprised. 

The truth is that our system resembles trench warfare, in which the parties on either side of a battle dig into defensive positions in an attempt to protect the territory they’ve gained.

Trench warfare requires warring parties to sacrifice any hope of advancing their cause in exchange for protecting ground. The combatants on either side find safety in their own trenches, surrounded by people who share their beliefs and their values. 

The neutral middle ground, No Man’s Land, remains unoccupied. It’s a shell-shocked terrain full of holes, barbed wire, and landmines, that neither party dares to enter. And so the factions stay inside their trenches and launch volleys at those on the other side.

But history suggests there’s another option.

Christmas Truce of 1914

In the initial months of World War I, No Man’s Land was the site of the Christmas Truce of 1914: an unofficial cease-fire that brought warring soldiers out of their opposing trenches, unarmed, to wish each other a Merry Christmas. 

It demanded a level of trust among the enemy soldiers that is hard to fathom today. 

Many historians refer to it as the last example of chivalry in warfare, perhaps because commanders on the ground threatened disciplinary action against any who engaged in similar attempts in the future.

But for a few hours one Christmas, mortal enemies found common ground. They set aside the ideas and the causes they were fighting for and they embraced their mutual humanity. 

Occupying the Middle

It’s an idea whose time has come in America. Political trench warfare has the extreme players within our system dug in to their respective trenches, having abandoned all of those who fall in the political middle. They’ve chosen self-preservation over progress and we have the gridlock to show for it. 

Starting today, we’re calling for a meeting in No Man’s Land. 

We’re challenging the people on both sides to muster a radical amount of trust and come together on this unoccupied middle ground. It’s the first step in an end to the partisan war that continues to divide the people of this nation. 

We’re choosing people over parties, and we’re extending the invitation to everyone: those inside the trenches, those outside the trenches, and those who dug the trenches. 

We’ve been fighting an undeclared civil war for some time now, and it’s fair to say that many of us feel the fatigue of prolonged division. It’s time to come out of our trenches; to re-examine the trust we’ve put in our two-party system, and to extend trust to our fellow Americans. It’s time to declare a cease-fire. 

I have no lengthy resume of political experience. Instead, I have an intense interest in our political system, 30-something years worth of life lived among our military, and a heightened sense of justice that bristles at the current state of the American political system.

Feel free to email me if you have thoughts, ideas, or if you see something that I’ve gotten wrong. (It will happen. I promise.)

~Shannon Rasmussen