Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Fanfare for the Common Man

I learned early on that only a handful of names make the history books, and among those only a handful are remembered outside those pages. The common man – the common soldier, peasant, farmer, laborer, science researcher, letter carrier, teacher, Little League coach, homemaker, doctor, artisan, courtesan – does not. In our commonness, we scream for attention, and each of us is indeed exceptional – which means, of course, that no one is exceptional. But that’s okay: the common man and woman are the backbone, the foundation and the fertilizer of history, necessary and invaluable to the continuation of what is human. No individual life is common. Each is unique. I also learned that history is an agreed upon lie written chiefly by the victors, and that hating your enemy is far more effective than feeling indifferent. All men are brothers, I have heard it said. Even more importantly, no men are strangers unless they choose to be. Yet we see each other as enemies. Our enemy today could easily become our ally tomorrow against our ally today – it happens. In the confusion that creates the names remembered in our history books, the common man fights his brother, kills and dies and does terrible things while the truth is hidden under thick clouds of propaganda and hateful speech, again and again and again. There is nothing unique in that. It is old men who dream of blood, but young men who shed it. Let the old ones do the fighting and see how long the war lasts.

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