Tag Archive | "Roman Empire"

Beware the Ides of March

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In the history of mankind, many memorable quotations have been recorded.  Among these were –

 

“Give me liberty or give me death.”
(Patrick Henry)

 

 “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes.”
(General Israel Putnam at the Battle of Bunker Hill)

 

“Where in the hell are all these Indians coming from?”
(General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, his “Last Stand”)

 

Few statements, however, have been as applicable to the state of current U.S. affairs as are the words spoken to Julius Caesar by a soothsayer just prior to his assassination in 44 B.C. – “Beware the Ides of March.”

 

The Ides, thought to have been the date of the full moon in the original Roman lunar calendar, fell on either the 13th or 15th of any particular month.  In March, that day was the 15th.  Since the assassination of Julius Caesar on that date, the phrase has become associated with the assassination of any dictator.

 

Fast-forwarding more than two millennia to our current time, Americans find themselves facing another warning to “beware of the Ides of March.”  This warning, however, comes not from a soothsayer, but from the very halls of Congress.

 

After narrowly averting a plunge over the fiscal cliff in the waning days of 2012, Congress and our President were unable to reach agreement preventing the Federal government from incurring significant spending cuts on March 1st – regardless of the phase of the moon on that particular day.

 

In February 2013, Black History Month was replaced by the Congressional version of the “blame game” as each political party tried to place responsibility for the conceptualization and passage of the sequestration law on the other.  Designed as a way to force both parties to come to agreement on deficit reduction, the forced cuts enacted under 2012’s Budget Control Act have been triggered and, absent Congressional action, will be fully enacted over the course of the next several months.

 

Congressional inaction and the institution of the sequestration cuts has left the general public with the uneasy feeling that no one is running our government.  Finger-pointing, name-calling, and fear-mongering have supplanted reasoned public discourse in our nation’s capital.

 

It’s time for “we the people” to speak out.  We can’t depend on a government that plays games or looks down the green fairways of indifference.  Our chosen representatives are already in campaign mode for mid-term elections that are still almost two years away.  For taxpayers, who will be footing the bill no matter who assumes power, this is a no-win situation.

 

George Washington, in his farewell address, warned of the dangers of political parties when he stated that –

 

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.”

 

Washington’s words have proven prescient, as each successive Congressional and Presidential election currently demonstrates.  As America is losing its leadership status in the world, the liberties guaranteed citizens by the Constitution and Bill of Rights are being eroded, and the average American is becoming poorer and more reliant on the largesse of a bloated federal government, political leaders are enriching themselves and creating a new aristocracy in America.

 

Today, America is facing its Ides of March.  Will our leaders place our nation’s future above partisan politics?  Will the three branches of our government act to preserve our Constitution?  Or, will we follow the path of the Roman Empire?  I leave it with you.

 

Independence Day

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I’ll bet I know what you’ll be doing this Fourth of July.  You’ll be at a barbecue, either in your back yard or that of a loved one or a friend.  You’ll be noshing on hot dogs and hamburgers, swilling down a cool brew or two.  You’ll tell a few jokes, laugh at others, and slurp some sweet, juicy watermelon. Finally, you’ll settle in as the sun sinks low to enjoy a dramatic fireworks display.  A moment before those bombs go “bursting in air,” I invite you to do something a bit different this Fourth.  I invite you to meditate upon the true meaning of the holiday and its place in all of our lives.


In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1776, representatives from the thirteen original colonies gathered to sign the Declaration of Independence.  Based upon the conviction that all men are created equal and that those men — and women — must have a voice in how they are governed, the infant nation of America was formed.  Our Founding Fathers had taken a stand, and a gigantic leap of faith, in breaking away from England in order to enjoy the freedoms they’d deemed God-given, freedoms for which they, and many others, fought hard.


Since that first Independence Day, this country has seen many wars, too many.  But, we have also seen enormous achievements and great prosperity.  From sea to shining sea, our nation has been blessed by an abundance of resources and the most beautiful and diverse natural “architecture” the world over.  You create what you envision, and so, the concept of Manifest Destiny birthed wagon trains rumbling over our fruited plains, wagon trains laden with brave and hearty pioneers.  Headed into a great unknown, the pioneers were driven solely by their indomitable spirit and the desire to make better lives for themselves and their families. From the forests, the streams and lakes, and the plains, those pioneers carved outposts and farms that bloomed into towns, cities, and eventually, States.  Now fifty in number, each bright star on our flag symbolizes one of our States.  Together, those fifty States forged a large, strong, and proud nation.


History repeats itself, indeed.  We patterned our Constitution, indeed our nation, upon that of France, which had liberated herself from the tyranny of a government that cared not a whit for its people.  However, the emergence of our nation also mimicked that of another country, or rather, an empire.


The Roman Empire was the superpower of its day.   Rich in culture, art, and monetary means and bolstered by a strong army that conquered outlying lands, ancient Rome’s arms stretched deeply into Mesopotamia (the Middle East) and as far as what is now the United Kingdom.  An Emperor presided over this vast and mighty realm, much as our own President heads the U.S. today, and her government boasted a Senate: an official forum in which representatives from Rome’s various city-states determined how their government operated.  The government was Imperial in nature but built upon a Republic whose core principle was, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  This form of government set the standard for future governments the world over.  But despite all her glory, the Roman Empire only survived for approximately 300 years.


Scholars and historians attribute the fall of the Roman Empire to the social, economic, and military changes taking place within her.  Other contributing factors were the moral decay of her people as well as governmental officials whose attitude had become self-serving, downright cruel, and even psychotic (i.e. Nero and Caligula).  Does any of this ring a bell with you — as in the Liberty Bell?  Does it sound at all like the America in which we now live?  Our government has been in existence for 234 years.  Where are we headed in the next 66?


This Fourth of July, as you thrill to the fireballs bursting brilliantly in the sky, you may well consider how many more Fourths you, and your children, and your grandchildren, will spend in this manner, with something to celebrate, something uniquely American.  Consider whether or not you wish to revive the spirit of our Founding Fathers and the pioneers who followed them, driven by their independence, vision, and gumption.  Do you wish to take a stand in how our government is run, or are you content with the status quo?   Do you want this nation to continue, and to flourish, despite the tough times we have faced in recent years?  Or will you watch as we crumble into dust like the Roman Empire?

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