Thursday, June 6, 2013

Verizon and Ancient Rome: Who we are and who we will be

We are responsible for the world we live in.

The recent revelation that the U.S. government is tracking data on every phone call made through the Verizon network was a wake up call to me.  I don't want to live in a world where my privacy is sacrificed for security.  I don't want a government with the power to collect data on me without me knowing.  And if I want to change, I have to do something about it.  So I will.

If we are responsible for the world we live in, that is doubly true for American citizens.  Our Founding Fathers fought and died to give us a country where our voice counts.  What we make of that is up to us.

Take ancient Rome.

Few picture Rome as a place of virtue.  What comes to mind is the opposite.  The city of Rome, filthy and opulent.  Christians devoured by animals.  Slaves slaughtering each other to cheers in the Colosseum.  Debauchery.  Treachery.  Betrayal.  Collapse.

Funny thing is, the Romans saw themselves as a virtuous people.  They even give us the word "virtus."  The ideal Roman was courageous, loyal, trustworthy and modest.  Not unlike Jefferson's ideal American, he was a hardworking and thrifty farmer.  Romans in the public sphere were expected to uphold these virtues.  The most successful Emperors cloaked themselves outwardly in Roman virtue, and their short comings were tolerated. Failing to do so, even for an Emperor,  meant disgrace if not death.

The ideal Roman:  Cinncinatus.  With Rome under threat the Senate sought one man to give dictatorial powers to until the crisis passed (this being before the time of Emperors).  Cinncinatus was the obvious choice.  Delegates arrived to his farm to find him the working in the field.  Asked to serve, Cinncinatus called for his wife to bring him his toga.  He returned to Rome, led the army and routed the enemy.   16 days later he resigned his dictatorial powers and went back to his farm.  He was a hero to George Washington who sought to set a similar example by resigning after two terms.

Contrast that with  Didius Julianus, the Emperor who bought the throne at auction.  He was booed and jeered by the public and Senate alike during his short reign for his greed..  Two months later he was killed in his palace.

Furthermore, the Romans were fiercely proud of their Republic.  Rome was a place with rule of law.  Decisions were made by elected representatives.Power was divided into different branches.  Our government is so closely modeled after theirs.

Rome.  A country with a strong sense of its own virtues.  A government founded on limited power, rule of law and representation of its people.  One Republic, Under God(s).

Then something happened.  The Republic fell, and was replaced with an Empire.  The trapping of the Republic remained, but only as window dressing.  The dream that was the Republic of Rome was dead.

How?  The simple answer:  A COUNTRY IS ONLY AS GOOD AS ITS PEOPLE.  All the ideals of virtue and Republic meant nothing if its people were not willing to live them.  The Republic died not because a blood thirsty man took power by force, but because that man, Julius Caesar, was so beloved by the people that the Senate was forced to appoint him Dictator for Life.

The Romans made their own bed.  Each individual chose in their own way to kill the Republic.  Those that supported Caesar.  And those that did nothing are just as responsible.

The same holds true for America.  Our ideals are great.  Our great documents are goose-bump inspiring. But ultimately they mean nothing if we don't live them out.  We make the world we live in, whether you want to realize it or not.  You can bury your head in the sand.  But that is still a choice to abdicate your rights to those more ambitious.  You had better hope they are ambitious for good.

America is too quiet.  Too apathetic.  Too consumed by our bank statements and pocketbooks and too unaware of the bigger picture.  Or, too willing to believe that one person's voice doesn't matter.  That is wrong.  They all matter.

And your choices, your votes (or lack thereof), where you spend your dollars, that all matters.

As for the Verizon scandal, I will write my representatives and voice my displeasure on social media.  I will not support Barack Obama again.  I will support candidates Democrat, Republican, or any other party, that support protecting my Constitutional rights.   I will fight and be heard the way the Founding Fathers intended me too.

You will make this world better, or you will make this world worse.  If you do nothing, that is a choice too. You had better hope that those who making the world better outnumber those making it worse.

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