Saturday, September 30, 2006

Surprise! NYT says US will fall just like Rome

Columnist Robert Harris writes that, in Rome, 68 BC, a terrorist act forced the first card to topple, eventually bringing down the entire house, necessitating the loss of freedom for all Romans.

See, what happened is, some terrorists -- out of the blue -- torched a bunch of ships in the harbor and kidnapped a senator or two, so Pompey forced all Rome into submission so he could go kill the bad guys... and, thus was all of Rome ruined. No longer could Romans be safe on the highways. No longer were Romans free to... uh... roam.

According to Harris' version of history, until the bad guys had attacked, everything was hunky dory for Romans. They could wander anwhere on the planet with surety that, when feeling threatened by somebody, they could say, "Civis Romanus sum", and everybody would know they were Roman citizens, and leave them alone. And, of course, when they surrendered their rights to Pompey, so that he could raise a military and fight the pirates who threatened the well-being of every Roman citizen -- and everybody else in Rome, as well -- well, obviously that marked the end of civilization as we know it, right?

Yah, suuuure. Ya betcha.

If the fall of Rome started in 68 BC, it really took a while to tumble. Some nice English boy needs to renew his history books from the library, and re-read the bit about the constant war against other nations for most of the Republic's centuries of existence, from 509 BC forward (during which it wasn't exactly safe for Romans to travel in, say, nearby Macedonia). And then he needs to get through the part where the Gracchi -- and a century or so later, Sulla -- triggered massive upheaval and civil unrest, and then there was the slave rebellion (for anybody who wants to see a manly movie about it, see here)... before the pirates sacked Ostia, in 67 BC, before Pompey had his maritime victory against them and then against Mithridates' large military force. In 66 BC. (I refer to Wiki for convenience's sake. My own books are hard to scan.)

Of course, Harris, with all his vague comprehension of history, is leading us somewhere, ain't he?

He contends that the recent decision of the US legislature to allow non-citizens to be detained without habeas corpus marks the end of our own freedoms. The legislation is obviously an attack on every American citizen's rights, isn't it? If we can hold violent non-American enemies of the people without trial, what is the world coming to? Obviously, it means the end of our Great Republic! All that we are as a people must surely perish because we deprive murderous non-citizens of the same rights all citizens are guaranteed! Oh no!

Uh huh.

What is it about some people that makes them think that living and breathing the name "America" grants every person rights equal to citizenship? Do we expect to be treated as Cives Romani as we travel the globe? Do no other country's laws apply to us when we are abroad? Gosh darn it, we're Americans. WE have immunity from your puny laws. If that is the case, why aren't there more American women driving cars and wearing Daisy Dukes and halter tops in sultry Saudi Arabia, for example? Where are the American open-bar parties in Syria? And, what about Americans wandering about neighborhoods in Iran teaching the words of Jesus?

Just because you once vacationed in Miami doesn't mean that you're a citizen of Miami. In fact, if you vacationed there with the express purpose of burning down bars and exploding bikini-clad girls, I'm pretty sure you won't get the key to the city. So it is with the rest of this great nation. We let you in to visit, if you ask us. If you behave yourself during your visit, and you guarantee you will live by our rules, you might eventually be granted citizenship -- again, if you ask us. But until that day, you ain't one of us. You're either a guest or an interloper. And we don't cotton to interlopers.

If somebody breaks into my house with a gallon of gasoline and a match and threatens me and my cats, I don't pause to read him his rights. I don't ask him if he had a hard childhood, I don't stop in the middle of a battle to ask why he came to hate me. If he says he's got friends outside who are going to do me more damage, I don't ask him politely to sit and explain himself. I may be a gimpy, overweight, middle-aged woman with a tendency toward didacticism, but I do know how to swing a cane better than a baseball bat, to wield a well-honed butcher knife, and even, if desperate, throw a pissed-off kitty into the face of some low-life scum for maximum damage. And I will do it.

Because, you see, it's my house. My country. I have a right to defend my home according to my country's laws. And, my country's laws make it possible for interlopers to be either put out of my misery on the spot, or held -- for questioning or other purposes -- until they are no longer a threat to me and mine. It somebody has a problem with that, let him get acquainted with Philip Nolan.

Or, better still, let him meet Mithridates face to face.


Anonymous said...

You've missed the point, I suspect deliberately. Harris is not describing the fall of the Roman empire, but the fall of Roman democracy. But you sound like exactly the kind of person who would give away your rights in a heartbeat.

You've also glossed over many of the recent American court decisions to which Harris refers. It's not simply a question of denying habeus corpus to non-citizens and officially sanctioning torture for the first time, though these are serious steps. There's also the little matter of stripping all rights from actual citizens by declaring them "enemy combatants", a declaration that does not have to be proved in any court of law. Not to mention the wiretapping of citizens, raiding citizens based on secret warrants, etc. You'd have to be blind not to see the constant erosion of rights.

But then, that's what you are, isn't it? Blind with hatred, blind with anger, blind with racist prejudices, blinded by misinformation and ignorance.


leucanthemum b said...

No, you've missed the point. The fall of Roman REPUBLIC (it was by no means ever a democracy) did not happen overnight, and it didn't occur because of the pirate actions. The military actions of Pompey were not the start or the finish of the aristocratic structure of the Roman Republic (in which only propertied men had a say).

The fall was symptomatic of an unstable WORLD, and not the fault of one man on a mission to protect Roman lives.

And, it took centuries to get there, and further centuries to complete its fall.

(It was, BTW, the Gracchi movement toward political correctness, the backlash to which directly led to more power in the hands of the elite, leading then to the Slave Rebellion in Rome a year before that savage, cruel despot Pompey instantaneously and without cause destroyed the Free Republic that was Rome... by saving it from its enemies.)

Erosion of rights?!? Shall we talk BCRA? Shall we talk speech codes? Shall we talk "politically correct" language? How about KELO v. City of New London? How about limits to expression of religion (Christianity, that is)? I can go on all day, you know...

Can you name one citizen of this country who has not been given due process as an "enemy combatant"? Can you name one instance in which it is proven that a citizen of this country had his phones tapped, without warrant, under NSA action? And, can you show me where a secret warrant does not have to undergo the exact same -- if not greater -- evidentiary procedure as a regular warrant? And, can you give me proof positive that there is no precedent for any of these actions in time of war ? Thought not (even the so-called War on Drugs had all this stuff -- and more -- which you place at Dubya's door). I'm not crazy about a lot of it, but then, I am crazy about other stuff, such as my life and the lives of my non-homicidal-fanatic-Muslim family members and friends, so there's a bit of a balancing act to be done.

"But then, that's what you are, isn't it? Blind with hatred, blind with anger, blind with racist prejudices, blinded by misinformation and ignorance."

Yes, you have me pegged. I'm full of hatred, anger, misinformation and ignorance. And I'm a racist. You know me so well.

Do I sense a touch of projection, here? I'll admit to ignorance, here.