We Are Rome?
By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press
As millions of flag-waving Americans huddle around barbeques July 4, with beer, burgers and exotic hors d'oeuvres in hand, and some of our friends across the pond, as we like to say, embrace a more revisionist view of Independence Day, the world watches in curious anticipation of what “We The People,” on the cusp of a critical national election, espouse as a collective vision and destiny.
That vision today seems as loud, crackling and assorted as a fireworks display on a hollow, cloudless night—deafening booms from the left and right and sprays of opinionated color from the middle. “Oh, but ain’t that America for you and me,” as John Mellencamp sings.
Diversity of opinion, as with race, gender and creed, is succor for the nation’s soul, so long as it is expressed with genuine respect for others, deferential tolerance of our many differences. Most of us share the same broad vision for America: that we be a strong, secure country; a defender of rights; a land of opportunity. How we get there is anyone’s guess, and those from the far right and far left who purport to have all the answers are as American as the British loyalists of the revolution. “Ain’t that America, the home of the free.”
Much has been written on the eve of July 4 about this nation’s past and about its future, as we shore up a permeable homeland security and brace for the potential of more terrorist attacks. In recent books, newspaper columns and in pulpits, comparisons have been made to ancient Rome, the invincible empire that once ruled the world and died of self-inflicted causes—a ruinous morality and lack of good leadership and a plan. Writing in the New York Times, Adam Goodheart reads between the lines of Cullen Murphy’s new book, “We Are Rome?”
“The dogmas of the…past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew.”
- Lincoln“Mr. Murphy,” writes Goodheart, “especially draws parallels between Rome’s imperial predicament and what he sees as ours: the problems of a vast, multiethnic nation with a messianic view of itself and an often simplistic view of the rest of the world, stretched too thin beyond its borders and facing mounting challenges within them.”
Indeed, those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it, Abraham Lincoln tells us. But as Lincoln cautioned, “The dogmas of the…past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew.”
Thinking and acting anew—if we are to avoid the perils of Rome and plot a course that navigates the hazards of the 21st century—requires real problem solving, not the usual bolus of ideologues, nitpicking and shrill talk shows, bent more on agitating than edifying. It’s something to consider as we stoke the fires of our 231st birthday.
“Ain’t that America, we’re something to see.”