The dictator is dead; Long live the dictator

Today the news features headlines such as “The last hours of a tyrant,” covering the capture and death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Pictures show a normal human body, not especially powerful, rather soft, bloody and as one poem I read long ago described the victim of an accident, “ridiculous in death.” This dictator, like others before him, looks more like the weakling than the bully. Who would not stand up to him in a street fight, or a work place argument? And yet….and yet. He was indeed the bully, commanding millions, a being whose word was feared, a bringer of death not just in his own land, but across the boundaries of the world’s nations, who had the honour, hollow though it has become, of being treated like royalty and addressing the leaders of the world, many no better than he, in the General Assemblies of the United Nations. His presence helped to shape the ugliness of our world and contributed to the lurching path with which we plot our present course in history. Like so many others of his ilk, his name and fame will live beyond his puny self for years to come: not so for my mechanic, my doctor, my teachers, my parents, all of whom advanced the cause of humanity quietly by living the life of the decent, hurting few and helping loved ones and friends. They lived their modest lives and became quiet clay. Why not them, instead of the monsters, to stride, colossus like across the pages of history? Instead it is they, blighting civilizations until in Ozymandias fashion, their legacies collapse and, are ultimately buried in the graceful sands of a healing desert. But even before the sands can do their work, lo and behold, a successor arises, and we forget that underneath the phony medals and the cloak of invincibility, there is just another weakling, and once more, we allow him to become the bully.

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