Wednesday, December 31, 2014

3 historical portraits

by stephanie zweig

illustrated by roy dismas and konrad kraus

1. cleopatra

cleopatra lived a long time ago.

but not really so long ago, when you stop and think about it.

look at it this way. suppose you are on a bus or a subway car, fairly crowded but not jam-packed. or in a movie theater that has a decent crowd, but it is not so crowded you can't be comfortable. or a fairly large restaurant, that is pretty busy. you get the idea.

in all these cases, there might be about forty people.

forty people. no big deal. you can even sort of see them with your naked eye all at once.

now figure those forty people have an average life span of fifty years. that sounds a little low, in the modern age, but figure some of them will die young or have heart attacks or be killed in auto accidents or whatever. fifty is a pretty conservative number.

now take those forty people - that you can see with your naked eye all at once - and instead of them leading their average fifty year lives all at once, they live them back to back. that is 40 x 50 = 2000 years , which is about how long ago cleopatra lived. actually she died in 30 b c so that is 2044 years ago.

now does it seem so long ago? now compare those 40 people whose combined lives go back to the time of cleopatra and julius caesar and pontius pilate and john the baptist with the number of people alive right now - about 7 billion.

7 billion people alive right now, but if you live to be 90, tthere are only about 3 billion seconds in your life.

looked at that way, human history is like a big puddle, way wider than it is deep.

anyway, back to cleopatra.

she was one of the most famous people that ever lived, and as we see, she did not really live all that long ago.

but what do we really know about her?

not much.

we know she lived and died, and that she was a human female, and she was married three times including twice to her brothers, and she had four children, including a set of twins.

but what was she like? was she a nice person, did anybody really like her?

there is one statue that might be her, and it has a big nose, but it might not even be her.

did she have big ears, or a big ass, or big tits, and did she laugh at certain types of jokes or did she have any sense of humor at all?

did she make up stories? did she talk about people behind their backs?

did she really like men, or did she just marry them and have sex with them because she had to?

did she look people right in the eye when she talked to them? was she a straight shooter? a stand-up gal?

she had servants and slaves, did she treat them nice?

nobody really knows.

and she was one of the most famous people who ever lived, one of the most famous women for sure, and did not live so long ago.

it makes you stop and think.


2. hitler

adolf hitler was born when the modern age was just beginning.

instead of living all their lives in little villages and towns and tribes where everybody knew everybody else, and where it got dark every night, more people were living in big cities all jammed together and they had electric light.

and newspapers, and then radio, brought news from all over the world as soon as it happened.

there was one world.

and millions, hundreds of millions of people could dream of conquering the world.

and have a picture in their minds of the world they wanted to conquer.

before if someone dreamed of conquering the world, they would have had to ride out on a horse and find most of the world first before they could conquer it - so they would not even know what they were getting into.

but now, with a clear picture in their mind of what was out there, hundreds of millions of men and boys, and no doubt plenty of women and girls too, went to sleep every night dreaming of world domination.

out of all those innumerable dreamers, now in the billions, no one has actually achieved the prize, but one of the the few who had made a pretty good start was adolf hitler.

he gave it a good try, but in the end he was overwhelmed and defeated.

he is now remembered as the worst human being who ever lived.


3. joe mccarthy

joe mccarthy was a united states senator . he was never president of the united states, or ruler or dictator of any country, not even a little one.

he never commanded an army or navy or was even mayor of a town.

so far as is known , he never killed anybody, or had them killed, or even had anybody directly arrested or thrown in jail.

despite this, he is generally recognized as the second worst human being who ever lived, second only to hitler.

why, you may ask?

because he did the worst thing anybody can do, much worse than killing people.

he spit on people's dreams.

millions of people, male and female alike, especially among the more educated classes, not only dream of conquering the world, but dream of the whole world being grateful to them and loving them for conquering the world, because they are going to take the opportunity to make the world a nicer place to live - because all the bad people will be killed or put in jail, and only the nice people will be left.

most of these dreamers, as they get older, what with one thing and another, give up their dreams. but they always remember them, and are proud of the fact that they had them.

what joe mccarthy did was, instead of admiring these people for their dreams, told them they should never have had them, and should be ashamed of them.

and maybe even lose their well-paying and respectable jobs and social standings because of them.

for this he is remembered in infamy forever.


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