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!
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.