This 1954 Essay on Humanity Is More Relevant Now Than Ever

Brown, yellow, black, or white... every man on this earth is my brother. I know it when I see them sharing my home.

American Army Sgt. James Fletcher, with some Kachin scouts in Burma during World War 2. The Kachin natives provided information vital to the builders of the Ledo Road 1940sEverett Collection/Shutterstock

Editor’s Note: Reader’s Digest is partnering with WeThePurple.org to republish articles from our archives that dramatize and revive patriotic enthusiasm about democracy and its core values. This piece by Pulitzer Prize winning author James Michener demonstrates, with beauty and simplicity, a core democratic value: All men are equal.

I really believe that every man on this earth is my brother. He has a soul like mine, the ability to understand friendship, the capacity to create beauty. In all the continents of this world I have met such men. In the most savage jungles of New Guinea I have met my brother and in Tokyo I have seen him clearly walking be­fore me.

In my brother’s house I have lived without fear. Once in the wildest part of Guadalcanal I had to spend some days with men who still lived and thought in the old stone age, but we got along together fine and I was to see those men in a space of only four weeks ripped from their jungle hideaways and brought down to the airstrips, where some of them learned to drive the ten­-ton trucks which carried gasoline to our bomb­ing planes.

Once in India I lived for several days with villagers who didn’t know a word of English. But the fact that I couldn’t speak their language was no hindrance. Differences in social custom never kept me from getting to know and like savage Melanesians in the New Hebrides. They ate roast dog and I ate Army Spam and if we had wanted to emphasize differences I am sure each of us could have concluded the other was nuts. But we stressed similarities and so long as I could snatch a Navy blanket for them now and then we had a fine old time with no words spoken.

I believe it was only fortunate ex­perience that enabled me to travel among my brothers and to live with them. Therefore I do not believe it is my duty to preach to other people and insist that they also accept all men as their true and immediate brothers. These things come slow. Sometimes it takes lucky breaks to open our eyes. I had to learn grad­ually, as I believe the world will one day learn.

To my home in rural Pennsyl­vania come brown men and yellow men and black men from around the world. In their countries I lived and ate with them. In my country they shall live and eat with me. Until the day I die my home must be free to receive these travelers and it never seems so big a home or so much a place of love as when some man from India or Japan or Mexico or Tahiti or Fiji shares it with me. For on those happy days it reminds me of the wonderful affection I have known throughout the world.

I believe that all men are my brothers. I know it when I see them sharing my home.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest