When Rome Looked Like the US…

Fortunately, I’m good at depression.  I mean, I’ve been practicing for years.  After awhile, you don’t really expect to feel…anymore.  You work out ways to get through another day without spewing – to the extent possible – your internal darkness around everywhere.  People prefer jokes and smiles.  I can do that, normally.  But it’s got me today.

I spend a lot of time with history.  I spend a lot of time paying attention to the “doings” of politics.  I’ve been watching a war play out daily in this once great nation for something like 35 years and I pretty much see the end-game in progress.  It’s the war between the “haves” and the “have-nots” – a class war the “haves” initiated with the “election” of Ronald Reagan and the “have-nots” didn’t even know they were – or should have been – fighting.

One can see the parallels in this once-great nation to two different periods in time: France, just before their revolution and Rome, just as the Republic failed and shifted to empire.  Neither period proved beneficial to the increasingly impoverished masses.  In BOTH cases, the rich were doing just fine.  Too fine, some might say.

Today, I’m more focused on Rome.  Most people know about the Roman Empire.  Many people don’t realize the empire was born a Republic.  They even had a Senate.  Today, history understands Julius Caesar as Rome’s first Emperor but nobody called Caesar the Emperor at the time.  The people of Rome, the work-a-day folks going about their business, didn’t even realize a change had occurred.

Caesar maintained the Senate.  He even allowed for the presence of dissenters, so long as there weren’t so many as to create actual dissent.  The creep of empire was relatively slow.  Romans didn’t go to sleep in a Republic one night and wake up in an empire the next morning.  That’s not how it works.  It’s a slow but steady movement away from the norms of Republic to new “norms”.  Things that aren’t supposed to be…but are anyway.

Things like enriching oneself and family by not only accepting but openly requesting emoluments from people who have business with the ruler; “tributes”, let’s call them.  Systematically replacing people trying to do the Republic’s work with toadies who will do as they’re told and NEVER counter the ruler is another step in the parade to authoritarianism.  A larger governing body – in Caesar’s case, a Senate – that refuses to stand up to the abuses of the ruler in order to protect their own positions, or in the belief that they’re doing so, until it’s far too late.

Yes, the Roman Senate eventually stood up to Caesar but the damage was done.  Rome maintained the trappings of a republic but was never a true republic again.

As it stands right now, it seems like the American Congress is going to support Trump regardless of how outrageous his or his family’s behavior becomes.  It appears, to me, like the transition is pretty much complete.  It all LOOKS the same.  We still have a Congress but they’re clearly not going to challenge Trump.  We still have a “Supreme Court” but they’ll keep making decisions that serve the privileged elite at the expense of the masses.  For many of us, the day-to-day realities of just getting through will seem unchanged.

In France, once the aristocracy had just gone too far for the masses to tolerate, the people rose up in one national riot and began lopping off heads – some deserving, some…not so much.  Maybe the same thing will happen here so the US won’t get hundreds of years as the dominant empire of the day.  But a Reign of Terror as the “hopeful” offset to brutal empire?

I’ll tell you this: I find it all pretty depressing…

 

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