Home > General Comment > The Past is Prologue. Or, “America Is Ready”

The Past is Prologue. Or, “America Is Ready”

Threecrow emerges from contemplation to reflect on our moment in history:

But first, a note from our…:

Found within the Wikipedia are these two chains of historical events taking place nearly 2000 years apart and yet both bring about a curious feeling of déjà vu.

This chain:

The Roman Republic, which preceded [The Empire], had been weakened and subverted through several civil wars.[nb 2] Several events are commonly proposed to mark the transition from Republic to Empire, including Julius Caesar’s [Man on a White Horse] appointment as perpetual dictator (44 BC), the Battle of Actium (2 September 31 BC), and the Roman Senate’s granting to Octavian the honorific Augustus (4 January 27 BC).[nb 3] Roman expansion began in the days of the Republic, but reached its zenith under Emperor Trajan. At this territorial peak, the Roman Empire controlled approximately 6.5 million km²[6] of land surface. Because of the Empire’s vast extent and long endurance, Roman influence upon the language, religion, architecture, philosophy, law, and government of nations around the world lasts to this day.

And this chain:

The French Revolution (1789–1799) was a period of radical social and political upheaval in French and European history. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years. French society underwent an epic transformation as feudal, aristocratic, and religious privileges evaporated under a sustained assault from liberal political groups and the masses on the streets. Old ideas about hierarchy and tradition succumbed to new Enlightenment principles of citizenship and inalienable rights…. Abolition and replacement of the French monarchy with a radical democratic republic. Radical social change to forms based on Enlightenment principles of citizenship and inalienable rights. [leading to] Armed conflicts with other European countries [that demanded leadership and] Napoleon Bonaparte [Another Man on a White Horse] takes power.

(Brackets added by writer.)

To paraphrase the wonderfully written and terribly funny, 1066 And All That,

“Though statues were made of both of them one could tell the difference because the first always stood with his arms like this while the other always stood with his arm like that.”

Now, having laid down this historical backdrop we can move forward to the present.

For reasons made all too clear on this site, “Re: The People” and the earlier effort, “The Alienated Self,” America is and has for some time been faced with a similar shift away from her beginnings. History will note that, while it by no means happened overnight or by a single action, by the year 2008, America, a nation born in a New World and out of an Act of Revolution based at least in some measure upon the Declared Rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness had become the antithesis of that She meant and had for some 200 years believed Herself to be. Let’s face it, we have been in the state of, if not civil wars, than extremely uncivil wars for well over thirty years, the battle of the Blue and Grey having now become the battle of the Blue and Red.

At the same time, there can be no mistaking the claim that we are in the very same transition as Rome in our move away from a Republic and towards that of Empire. One need only compare maps of the ancient Roman world of influence with that of present day American interests and influence to see the similarity. Add to this the economic pressures that have befallen and have been felt by the majority of Her citizens has brought about the sense that “a just price for a loaf of bread” seems beyond our asking and thereby lends a late eighteenth century French odor of fear, loathing and outrage that seems to waft across the land. This “Young Republic,” as we are so fond of calling ourselves had taken on the appearance of having become ungovernable in any traditional manner within our collective memory and in some vague and hazy way , knowing that we were entering into both an age of empire and domestic violence and wanting to avoid a modern day Reign of Terror, we decided to skip the lopping off of heads bit and move directly into the Man on the White Horse phase.

It is no mistake that Rhetoric, large R, was included in the original seven studies that composed the education of the ancient university. Rhetoric by its very definition was expected to move men to action, and it is here, in the soaring rhetoric applied by the candidate of the Democratic Party, that can be found the cause of all calamity.

I do not think for a minute that those who went to the polls that November day be they Republican, Independent or Democratic were voting for a President. I believe they were voting for an Emperor. The candidate delivered his message to massive crowds of hundreds of thousands gathered in his name, we’re talking Woodstock numbers here, and he delivered those speeches in such a manner that the simple, bumper sticker claim of “Yes We Can” had reached the level of a promise, nay, more than that, a pledge, in fact an oath of “Yes We Will.” The image implanted in the minds of every citizen by that promise was that by giving the Emperor the Crown everything that was wrong in the nation and in the world would be made right. Not only that, but that it would be made right Overnight.

The Emperor would do what every good emperor does, he would impose his laws and rule over the empire with an unfailing and unflinching will, and woe-betide any individual or group who opposed his will. The lopping off of heads bit was left to the newly crowned man who they believed they had by their collective act of voting set upon the throne.

I am not using hyperbole here. It is my firm belief that in a cave memory fashion that they had come to an unspoken understanding that only a benign tyrant could undo and redress the damage to their lives they had been baring and suffering and would continue to suffer in any other foreseeable future. But there was something of a Chimera in this man who would be emperor; he used his words in such a way as to become all things to all people except those who were violently opposed to his election from the day of his announcement.

And then the worse that could befall an Emperor did.

As the months dragged on like the dog days of summer after the election, any semblance of Imperial Power evaporated like the stuff dreams are made of. The bumper sticker slogan of “Yes We Can” having morphed to a promise/pledge/oath was beginning to take on the tentative appearance of Maybe We Shouldn’t. Say what one might of Julius and Augustus Caesar, though they were a lot of things, tentative was not one of them. The tentative, one-year-wonder string of Emperors came later.

A wise friend once told me that perception is 90% of reality. I’m not claiming it is fair or even accurate, but the perception of nearly all those who this candidate had inspired to support and vote for his promised leadership began to view him as an empty vessel and worse, as a vessel of sweet and heady wine now turned into vinegar.

The Man who would be Emperor had enfolded four large fronts of action within his Yes We Can vision of America that he dangled in front of her citizens during the drive towards his Triumph: Fixing the Broken Economy in a fashion that would “bail out Main Street, not Wall Street“; Health Care For Every Man, Woman and Child in every corner of our nation; A Brave New Direction in Energy Policy that would move quickly away from carbon emitting coal and foreign dependent fossil fuel and into a natural holistic newly built national grid delivering clean solar and wind powered electricity while creating millions of new jobs and careers in the process ; Finally, and this was for many the essence of his promise, an End to a State of Perpetual War, shooting or verbal with seemingly All the other Nations of the World.

During the following two years after the election the perception most Americans developed was that the “Bail-Out” billions seemed to go to the very banks that broke us in the first place. What happened to all those “shovel ready” projects that were alluded to in an FDR manner during the campaign? The “health care debate” dragged on endlessly and took on the appearance of a Pyrrhic victory at best when finally passed and so confused the public that one would be hard pressed to find a single citizen who can tell you that he or she feels they have improved their situation or standing in the Health Care System a single degree. On energy all that is visible is the decision to “Drill baby drill” in the Atlantic and Gulf States region. Where’s the Windmills? The Sun comes out daily; where are the millions of jobs that the commercials informed us would arrive with this “Time for Change?” And as to War, our Universal Soldier seems endlessly committed to conquering the very people who have successfully turned back every would be conqueror since Alexander the Great, while the seven year War in Iraq has become invisible to every “news” organization with a corporate owner. Only the families with one of their own staked out in that nation know anything of what has become of Iraq.

The current state of the union amounts to this: The Emperor has no clothes.

This is not the Man on a White Horse Americans had envisioned on that November day in 2008. Having created an image of being all things to all people his present day standing cannot be perceived as anything other than his being a let-down at best and an absolute failure at worst. He has not pleased a single soul who placed their trust in his ability of wear the crown. For an Emperor, any Emperor of any time, this is a bad thing.

Epilogue

Almost by accident I happened to see a clip of that lady from Alaska who everyone who had supported the bid for power of the present Emperor dismisses as witless. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is nothing witless about malice. In that clip that must be floating about on you tube somewhere she was speaking to an angry mob.

This is what she said:

“We need a Commander-in-Chief standing at the lectern, not a Professor of Law!

America is ready!”

This raises a frightening question for the nation. If I am right about any of this and America in 2008 did move towards Empire and Emperor flavored with spices from France, 1789, and the perception is as of now that of a failed or even flawed Emperor who was placed into power riding the back of a three word slogan of “Time for Change,”

How much more dangerous and perilous an Emperor can be placed upon the throne with the warning challenge of another three word slogan: America is Ready!

For what, one asks with quaking tone, is America ready?

What rough beast is slouching towards D.C. to be born?

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