Here Lies Common Sense

I’ve often wondered about the decline and fall of America and of the Civilized World as a ragged and motley whole. Such grim musings have not been about whether it would fall or when it would fall, for I am convinced that it has already fallen but not, as of yet, dashed itself to bloody pieces upon the waiting ground.

No; my ruminations have been about when it fell from well-earned grace and why it did so. What small and unnoticed failure of our own people – for no outside force could be reasonably said to be to blame – precipitated our collapse and sent us spirally to our doom?

A likely answer to my quandary came from a highly unlikely source. It came in the form of an internet chain email filled with equal parts lament and wry wit which poetically pointed out our method of societal suicide.

An Obituary printed in the London Times:

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

  • Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
  • Why the early bird gets the worm;
  • Life isn’t always fair;
  • And maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement. Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I’m A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

Yes; we should all mourn the death of our longtime friend, teacher, and defender Common Sense and hang our heads in shame for either standing by while it died or, in the case of so many, actively helping its death along.


I have included this post in Reflections From A Murky Pond’s Humor category, but the only reason it contains any mirth at all is that Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain was possessed of both common sense and a rare, high wisdom when it came to the human condition.

Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.

— Mark Twain
Following the Equator

NOTE: There have been many variants of this email floating around the internet for the last 10 – 12 years. Many of the them ascribe the source of this wisdom to the late comic, George Carlin. Such an attribution is erroneous; the original version of this piece was penned by columnist and author, Lori Borgman for the Indianapolis Star in March, 1998.

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4 Responses to “Here Lies Common Sense”

  1. Tweets that mention New Post - Here Lays Common Sense - -- Says:

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  2. Guy Says:

    First, a grammatical nicety: the verb you’re looking for is “lie”: “here lies common sense.” We know through a rather fortunate detail of its form, that “lay” is the causative of “lie” (i.e., “to lay” is “to cause [x] to lie”), which effectively turns an intransitive verb (“to lie”) into a transitive one (“to lay”). Since “common sense” is the agent of the verb and there is no patient, you need the primitive, intransitive root, i.e., “to lie.”

    As for the post itself, I don’t find much compelling in it — some self-indulgent assertions (end of the world as we know it, and you don’t feel fine) without anything to back them up. The email you quote is pretty uninspiring allegory. Yes, we live in a centralized, bureaucratic society, as any nation of 300 million will tend to be. There will be regulations, and they will enable our litigiousness. Just boilerplate rightwing complaint. As usual, government is invoked as the usurper of liberty without any recognition of its real value, which vastly outweighs the inconvenience of its bureaucracy: i.e., its many services, social safety net, construction / maintenance of roads, etc., regulation of consumer safety, and on and on. Anyway, whatever, the email is not exactly an argument and doesn’t even merit rebuttal. The one thing I found rather humorous was your citing of Twain, whose progressive politics are probably rolling over in his grave at this moment, or at least having a nice, ironic laugh.

  3. jonolan Says:

    Thanks for the note on grammar. Those are a set of verbs that often “get away from me” if I’m not completely careful.

  4. The Four Horsemen | Reflections From a Murky Pond Says:

    […] Here Lies Common Sense […]

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