Sunday, April 25, 2010

America is the new Rome

"There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish... it was so fragile."

Let us whisper here for a time...

Before we get to Cullen Murphy and Peter Merel, I'd like to begin at my own attempts to understand our strange and powerful country.

It all starts with the phrase, "Proud to be an American." Ever since I was born this phrase has been the call of every repressive, discriminatory, and ignorant individual I've known. Stickers attached to cars bigger than the parking-spots they spill across, and polyester flags hung from suburban housing practically screamed uninformed casual patriotism. Southern California is a place where rich meets stupid and plays with ignorance often enough, yet even I am sometimes surprised how little people question the beliefs they take for granted. The foundations of their identities seem superimposed over playing-cards arranged into convincing facades when I realize they never think about the things they believe.

I have not been proud to be an American for quite some time. In fact, I can never remember when I was ever proud to be American. Even as early as elementary school, I resented being forced to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. As soon as I could adequately declare my right to do so, I stopped all fake attempts at piety to the religion of patriotism that my peers seemed to indulge in, if only for the sake of less hassle by teachers, principals and parents.

It wasn't easy. People couldn't understand why I felt this need to rebel, to act out, to "try hard to be so different". The explanations I gave didn't help. Nobody comprehended ideas like "individuality", "suffrage", "hegemony", or "consumerism" those days. (And, surprisingly, not often these days either.)

So when my classmates rose and faced the flag, I stayed in my seat, pretending the susurrus sounded more like the wind than a Nazi rally from my Holocaust studies in Hebrew school.

Maybe that's it then? My Judaism gave me just the inch of difference to recognize the inherent contradictions of hypocritical ironics. Perhaps... I like to think it was my lack of assimilation. I refused to be like everyone else. Hell, I was probably incapable of it.

However, it was only later that I started to find a rationale for my stubborn insistence toward contrarianism. It wasn't intelligence -- although I can't deny it might've helped -- but a deep-seated need for understanding. I was one of those kids who said, "why" a lot. I extrapolated each "why" into a long chain of first-causes reducto ad absurdum all the way back to the Big-Bang.

Finally, in these early years of my twenties, I found myself confronted with problems which can't simply be ignored in favor of Super-Nintendo. A growing economic depression of stagflation with a military-industrial complex, prison-industrial complex, and ineffectual partisan politics from Democrats and Republicans who aren't just two sides of the same coin -- but are paid with it too! The nation is increasingly in debt while fighting two "wars", funding numerous overseas bases, and supporting Wall Street bailouts instead of Main Street's need for jobs. Congressmen get exposed for scandalous affairs so often that it's almost become a media cliche, so much that Tiger Woods' personal-life makes for better ratings.

What does this have to do with Rome? Well let me tell ya...

It mirrors in so many ways the state of Roman society. From the need for military domination to the combination of cultural mixing and cultural oppressing, America is like Rome -- only we don't want to admit it.

In this country things are happening that seem so damn similar it's almost frightening. The Fall of Rome signaled an end to Western Civilization. Will it mean the same thing if America implodes/explodes? Or is it better for our country to disintegrate under the weight of our various sins?

Rome's fall can be attributed to numerous factors: the split of the Empire, the export of military defense, the cost of maintaining their opulence and wealth, the inability for Roman society to deal with an increasingly diverse population...

And what have we seen in America? Arizona's new immigration law which basically legalizes racial-profiling. The Tea-Baggers protesting the loss of their "traditional America" even though they're only 18% of the population or so. We're seeing a serious move toward fascism in this country, as corporate interests begin to closely intertwine with those of the nation. We're seeing our huge, bloated society crumbling at the edges, and eventually that will move to the center where it'll be too late to save ourselves from the impending crash.

Thinking about it, boy, won't the rest of the world be happy?

For more information on America's correlations to Rome (put into words better than my own) check out some of these articles in the brackets: [Helium Listings], [Why2K], [The Telegraph Book Review]


4 footnotes:

Jasmin said...

So can we move to Spain then?

Zek J Evets said...

hmm... i'm not sure. you and spain seem like a bad idea =P

Mira said...

I must admit seeing an American criticizing America makes me feel good. Not because I hate America per se, but because I believe criticizing your government (whatever your home country might be) is a good thing. Just keeping your mind out of brainwashing, so to speak.

It gives me hope in human race when I read something like this. I know it sounds weird, but that's honestly how I feel.

Jasmin said...


Good point. I think people who can be placed on the fringes of "American" society (racial/ethnic or religious minorities, immigrants, etc.) don't buy so much into the meme of blindly supporting the country, because they can usually recall a time when said country treated them like crap.