Guest Voice: Empire is a Fleeting Thing
NOTE: The Moderate Voice runs Guest Voice posts from time to time by readers who don’t have their own websites, or people who have websites but would like to post something for TMV’s diverse and thoughtful readership. Guest Voice posts do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Moderate Voice or its writers. This Guest Voice post is by Jazz Shaw.
Empire is a Fleeting Thing
by Jazz Shaw
“Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom.”
–Edward Gibbon, “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – Chapter 3
The devolution of American politics – and, by predictable contamination, American government itself – through the levels of partisan stonewalling to its current state of bloodsport may lead to the very real end of the great American experiment and our way of life. While this may sound like hyperbole to the various combatants, recent events have given me increasing concern that our great country, which I once viewed as the summit of humanity’s social evolution and very likely immortal, may indeed fall. Not to outside forces, to be sure, but to the internal decay which has most often laid low the empires that came before us.
While some may wish to blame the Vandals, Huns or Goths, the Roman Empire did not, in the end, fall to barbarians at the gate. It rotted away from the inside through corruption, internal strife and class warfare until it could no longer defend itself. Governing factions threw each other down by means ranging from political subterfuge to outright assassination. Class distinctions swelled to the point where a thin strata of the massively wealthy and powerful loomed over a vast majority of desperately poor people. Bread and circuses only held the unwashed masses at bay for just so long.
Bloggers to both the left and right extremes may represent only the most radical positions, but they – along with far too many of our elected representatives – clearly illustrate two parties who are at war in all but name. Long gone is the system where two parties would work to offer up candidates representing different schools of thought, with everyone coming together under the eventual selection of the people.
This has been starkly displayed in particular over the last two decades. Republicans and conservatives worked together for eight years to attempt to destroy Bill Clinton in any and every way they could manage. Armies of Democrats and progressives, since 2000, have declared that George W. Bush was “not their president” and seemed determined to impeach him since even before he was first sworn into office. Campaigns at all levels grow more bold, muddy and bloody by the year, and it seems that nothing is off limits or over the line. The line no longer exists.
In days long since past, government officials at least seemed to make an attempt to disguise their motives and pretend they were doing the jobs we pay them for. Today, with events such as the Scooter Libby sentence commutation coming as only the most recent example, it appears that those in power no longer even care to pay lip service to the concept of equality of justice or opportunity. And dredging up the spectre of Bill Clinton’s odious pardon festival does not justify anything. Two wrongs will still fail to make a right.
The response to this in the online community is only to beat the drums of war all more loudly. While a handful of more rational bloggers, such as Ed Morrissey, took a measured, moderate approach in their responses, the majority of Republicans wanted Libby not only pardoned, but nominated for sainthood, while the Democrats seemed to feel that the only impediment to lynching Scooter would be the shame of wasting a perfectly good rope. Once again, concepts such as right and wrong are seen as quaint, but useless. All that matters at the end of the day is the score and the body count in the bloodsport of politics.
In terms of class divisions, it is hard for me to imagine that anyone alive and even marginally sentient today could deny that our government has been sold to big business in this country. While people everywhere decry the outsourcing of some of the best American jobs to India, South Americas and points beyond, nothing is done about it and the practice continues. Reality has put the lie to the Rhetoric of the Republicans about “retraining” and “moving into the new economy.” The truth has been laid bare as experienced software engineers from IBM continue to take their places behind the counter at Barnes and Noble.
Bringing a Democratic majority into Congress yields no results. Our legislative branch prefers to occupy their time tossing red meat to the respective party bases in the form of flawed immigration reform, gay marriage debates or endless investigations of the other party. And of course the Iraq war always remains an ideal distraction from the wholesale pillaging of the government.
While we’re on the subject of the Iraq war, who do you suppose are the real winners of this conflict? The Democrats? The Republicans? The Iraqi people? Hardly.
For a glimpse of the only real winners you need look no further than the many well placed contractors and corporations who have spent untold billions of dollars on the campaigns of politicians from both parties and now reap their rewards in the form of no-bid contracts, unsupervised expenditures and, in at least a few cases, blatantly loading up hundreds of millions of dollars in cash on the backs of trucks and simply hauling it away.
Public satisfaction with this president is at historic low levels. Regard for most of those seeking to replace him doesn’t seem to run much higher. Approval ratings for Congress as a whole are now actually in the teens. Think about that for a moment. You can’t even find one in five Americans who think Congress is actually acting in our best interest.
I dislike writing about a problem without offering up some suggestion to improve the situation. In this area, however, I am coming up short. I have no idea what it would take or what remains possible to change the course we seem to be on. Third party candidates are routinely squashed by the heavily entrenched and all too well financed traditional parties, except in the rarest of circumstances.
Could this nation really fall? For those who scoff at the idea, I would remind you that most of the citizens of Rome thought the empire was “eternal” right up until the end. We are demonstrating all the signs of a top heavy republic, rotting away from the core outward.
Bread and circuses will only hold the unwashed masses at bay for just so long.
(Jazz Shaw is the former editor of Running Scared and an occasional contributor to Middle Earth Journal, as well as a fan of TMV.)