The Final Emperors

Jake Stewart, Columnist

My mind has been lost in antiquity recently, readers. While I’ve always found an interest in history, these last few months the focus has been on the Roman Empire. Strange, I know, but we live in a world where mega churches exist while poverty still ravages the nation. The same could be said about the empire. The poor masses struggled to survive as those privileged few lived in purple robes and palaces, proclaiming to be gods among mortals. If things got bad enough, the rich threw games to distract the lower class. Yes, bloodshed was a way that emperors gained favor in times of peril. Are things really so different in this modern age?

We launch wars that drag on into total absurdity, with no true victories gained. We lose ourselves in championship football games, NASCAR races, and reality television rather than maintaining any interest in the political landscape other than to complain about minor soundbites. Meaningful issues are far from being important to us. No, they could distract from the newest celebrity gossip.

Distractions keep the majority in check. That way, we don’t see the ridiculous peril we’re heading toward. For example, the insurrectionists. Sure, a few have actually been charged with some form of treason, but these are merely the foot soldiers of the failed rebellion. The cannon fodder is taking the beating, but the leadership has yet to be challenged. Senators, television personalities, and a former President of the United States. Some will point out that the judicial process takes time, but this is a cheap out when people are murdered by police for minor violations.

One might say that our past was far from perfect, but I will argue that the 1950s certainly marked this nation’s Pax Romana—a period in which the nation was at its peak. Racism and bigotry were out in the open in those days, and we had to struggle through the witch hunt waged by HUAC, but people could live on a single income, college was a far more attainable option, and we were approaching the era of the Civil Rights Movement, a period where people stood up for what was right.

In this day and age, we are lost within the era of the Byzantine Empire, one that called itself Roman, but in reality, had very little in common with that title. We exist upon a crumbling foundation—attempting to control borders that cannot be maintained, waging wars that end in defeat (the War on Drugs, and the War on Terror), and we are sitting by as our government slogs in the mud, drowning in hypocrisy and horrid court intrigue.

We’ve passed by our Manzikert, and now we are left with nothing more than the walls of Constantinople between us and the brutal realities of the world that we’ve created. Rome was not built in a day, and the empire took centuries to rise and fall. The same is true of this thing we call the American Way. One can only hope that we turn things around before its too late.