“We know the truth. We know we’re not devils. We know we’re not gods. We’re human. We’re only human!”
– Edward Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Episode 4, “An Alchemist’s Anguish”
When Ed says this, he is speaking with the voice of bitter experience. He has learned the mystical art of alchemy since he was very young, and he’s proven to be extremely gifted, skilled, powerful, and accomplished. But he’s made mistakes which have cost him greatly, trying to overturn death itself for his own selfish, childish desires, as if he were a god. He has been called a devil by some, and, at this moment, he has just witnessed the horror of the alchemy he studies being used by a depraved madman to do something unspeakable, an act that was veritably of the Devil. For all the knowledge and power he wields, Ed was completely helpless to save a little girl from a most horrific fate, just as he was unable to bring back his deceased mother. In the face of these, in the face of this pain, he was as powerless as any other human. Which, really, that’s all he is.
That comes back again towards the end of the story, when he faces the truth: he is just a human. That’s all he’s ever been. No more, no less. Just human.
For being such a basic truth, people seem to forget it easily, and quite often: we’re just human, all one and the same. Nothing makes us more or less than that.
There’s no chosen, superior race. There’s no inferior race, either, no backwater tribe of inherently evil savages. There’s no human who can rule the world like a god and make everything perfect. There’s no virtue in trying to become a devil, in doing things we know are evil, “for the greater good.” There’s no baseline of how high or low we can reach, no biological dictator of our behavior for good or ill. There’s no one who is “better,” and no one who is “worse.” No one is “special.” All of our heroes are flawed, all of our idols have committed sins, and even the lowest and most vile of us can show surprising glimmers of selfless heroism.
Not to say that there are not truly evil people, of course, or truly good folk. Merely that neither is so far removed from us as we are prone to think, and we will never be so far removed from everyone else either, no matter our accomplishments or our crimes. We can be as good or as bad, as great or as low, as we choose to be.
We are not devils, here to destroy. We are not gods, here to make everything right. We are just human, here to do the best we can with what we’ve got.