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CHILL OF THE COLD WAR PERMEATES CHRISTMAS EDITORIAL

Leinster Leader December 18 2008
 
Chill of the Cold War permeates Christmas editorial
by
LIAM KENNY
 
The season of Christmas brings out the best in people and newspaper columnists are no exception to this seasonal outbreak of good will. The Leinster Leader of the third week of December 1958 ran an editorial reflecting on the state of the world at that time with notable references to the ‘Cold War’, the nuclear stand-off between the superpowers of the Russia and the Eastern Block on one hand, and the United States and the West on the other. The build up of tension between the power blocs had alarmed Ireland which although non-aligned with either group ramped up its Civil Defence precautions in case the country was affected by an exchange of nuclear firepower.
The Leader editorial reflected that ‘Christmas is truly a season of good will, when Christians everywhere rejoice in a communion that has survived wars and persecutions, edicts and pogroms from the time of Herod even to the present day.’
The seasonal editorial continued by pondering on the fact that from the foundation of the Christian faith, its adherents had been subjected to persecution and martyrdom in every generation and in every form devisable by the diabolical minds of tyrants and fanatics. The editorial struck a political note when it continued that ‘Even to-day in countries controlled by the Communist efforts no effort is spared to stifle the faith and to silence its Ministers.’ The Communists have outlawed the celebration of Christmas where possible, it continued, while in countries under their jurisdiction with Christian backgrounds and traditions, more subtle means of subjugation have been resorted to. Children were being deprived of religious training, their minds were poisoned with materialistic propaganda, religion was being held up to ridicule, and clergy imprisoned on one pretext or another, and in place of Christmas, a winter festival, presided over by ‘Father Snow’, a brain-child of the fertile imagination of some Kremlin propagandist had been substituted.
Referring directly to the worries of war which loomed over the late 1950s the editorial left no doubt as to the gloom which was hanging over the world ‘ We are coming to an end of an eventful year, a year in which the stockpiling of weapons and equipment of a potential destructive power too awful to bear description, has gone on apace in spite of pseudo peace overtures and professions of good faith.’
The world is divided into two warring camps – a cold war now – but the fires of class-hatred and covetousness are constantly being refuelled and may flare up at any moment, one spark can cause a holocaust. Even among the United Nations the stumbling block of self-interest is preventing agreement on many issues.
The editorial was published in a provincial newspaper but it took a view that was clearly global in its predictions of Armageddon if the nuclear powers did not pull back from the brink: ‘ It is freely admitted by both East and West that unleashing the hounds of war would cause devastation undreamed of, bringing in its wake the total annihilation of whole countries – European civilisation would certainly perish.’
Yet, it moralised, through human blindness, covetousness and mistrust, agreement to stop the manufacture of these implements of destruction cannot be reached. Treaties to be honoured, must be backed by a moral code, which admits the existence of a Supreme Being, who will punish the transgressor, or who will be offended by the transgression, otherwise, they are worthless and will be broken with impunity, if an advantage can be gained thereby. We are, therefore, left in a dilemma – no agreement or a worthless one. The great powers have failed lamentably to bring peace to the world. And the editorial poses the question ‘ Where then can we turn for guidance?’
The editor sought an answer to that question, and the possibility for global peace, by turning to the Christmas gospel. ‘Almost two thousand years ago an all-powerful army rejoiced, because the Saviour of the world was born in a stable at Bethlehem.’
Without good will there can be no peace, and without God there cannot be good will. When the leaders of the nations turn their eyes towards heaven and follow the star to Bethlehem as the wise men from the East did two thousand years ago, then and only then, can there be harmony and peace in the world.
And while reflecting on such great questions of global peace and war the editor did not forget to return his attention to the home readership by extending the good will of the season: ‘ On the threshold of another Christmas, it gives us pleasure to fulfil the genial and time-honoured custom of wishing our readers and advertisers a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.’ 
 
Series no 99.
 
 
 
 

In his regular feature 'Nothing new Under the Sun, Liam Kenny finds that  the Leinster Leader of the third week of December 1958 ran an editorial reflecting on the state of the world at that time with notable references to the ‘Cold War’, the nuclear stand-off between the superpowers of Russia and the Eastern Block on one hand, and the United States and the West on the other.


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