James Kirkup

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What is the central message of "No Men are Foreign" by James Kirkup?

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The central message of the poem is that war is a mistaken notion because all people on earth are connected through their common humanity. The poet describes a number of similarities that we share with our supposed enemies. The poet notes that underneath every soldier's uniform, the soldier breathes as we do. The soldiers who oppose us all walk on the earth, as we do, and they also share the sun, drink water, and enjoy the harvests of the earth. In addition, we share similar body parts, such as hands that labor and eyes that wake from sleep.

After drawing all these similarities, the poet asks the reader to recall that when we are asked to hate others, it is really ourselves that we hate. If we fight each other, we destroy the earth that we share and destroy innocence everywhere. When we fight others, we forget that our enemies are not foreign but are like ourselves. 

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The central message of the poem is to emphasize a sense of community and brotherhood.  In a world where wars are waged against an "other," the poem stresses that the common nature and bonds we all share should preclude any external identification.  The idea that we are breathe, feel pain, and experience the same emotions in a different ways is of critical importance.  The poem seeks to broaden emotional frames of reference so that division on grounds of nation or ideology are not as embraced.  The central message is one where the transcendent ideas of understanding and compassion are brought out to the reader who might be in a setting that fosters division and hatred.  Kirkup's poem is an idealized vision of the global community and all of its aspirations.

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