I realized a long time ago, in war or otherwise, the proverbial “bad guy” is less a people and more a person or persons. It is when we group all types of anything together that we are able to label it. Once it is categorized, we can deal with it as a whole. Is that fair in regard to people?
One of the themes we study in literature is how an oppressive society takes away individualism. This is always a negative attack on the protagonist in a story: the free-thinker, the free-spirit in literature. However, oddly enough, this seems to be happening with the “bad guy.” There seems to be an urgent need to oversimplify all types of people and stereotype them, which sadly, at times, allows the true bad people to get lost in the turmoil.
I am not only speaking of ethnicity or authority, I am also speaking about democrats and republicans, or anything with a different faction. There seems to be this urgent need for an enemy, and regardless what the “other side” does, because they are part of an opposing group, their actions always support a nefarious cause. This type of thinking results in sometimes irrational responses.
George Orwell published his novella “Animal Farm” in 1945. In brief, it is the story of talking animals who were oppressed on a farm and then rebel, forming a government that eventually mirrors (and satires) Stalin’s Soviet Union. I am not much for actual novels about talking animals, but once again, this narrative reaches beyond the literal, and that is where its gold is found.
One of the major characters in the work is a horse named Boxer. He is strong and kind, but slightly naïve. He is my favorite character. In all, I feel that Boxer is the most human of characters in the book, even more so than the surrounding farmers.
In Chapter 4 of the book, the animals are attacked by the neighboring farmers, and a battle ensues. The animals however were prepared and defeat their attackers. In the fray, Boxer accidentally kicks a stable boy in the head, and seemingly kills him. This upsets Boxer greatly. Nevertheless, one of the leaders of the animals quickly explains to Boxer, “War is war. The only good human being is a dead one.” I always found this line scary because it mirrors other sentiments throughout history. If any faction groups its enemy together, it is easier to hate them. There is no confusion, no need to think, no need to listen.
However, Boxer holds on to his humanity and refuses to group any consortium together to be destroyed. Boxer states, “I have no wish to take a life, not even a human life.” Boxer listens to that voice inside him. I’ve read this so many times, Boxer has become slightly real to me; he wishes no real harm, not even to his enemies.
Boxer exemplifies heart, but I also think it takes intelligence to not jump on the bandwagon of hate. I’m often driven by my passion, and as such sometimes have to pull back, and think, and listen. I have written more than one column no one will ever see.
In that same breath, I believe in fighting for what is right; however, what do you do when everyone thinks they’re right? Everyone is talking and no one is listening - or maybe more importantly, no one is listening to understand. This reminds me of something I read many years ago: “But the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire [came] a still small voice.”
If we’re all yelling, we can’t hear anything.
Brian Theodore is a language arts teacher at Corbin High School and lives in Corbin with his wife, who is also a teacher at CHS. He can be contacted at Theteachersdesk.email@example.com.