For many years, historians contended that the cause of this debacle was “decadence.” They argued that the Roman people had abandoned their moral core and hence were unable to muster the resolve to fend off disaster. Sadly, there is much truth to this verdict.
In the case of Rome, the Republican virtues of steadfastness, patriotism and honesty were forsaken in favor of luxury and selfishness. Rather than lead the legions to victory, its patricians preferred to recline on couches sipping wine and noshing on peacock’s tongues. Meanwhile, the plebeians were content to live off the dole, biding their time in a haze of free bread and circuses.
The question we must now face is has the United States come to this same pass? Have we too, after a century of political and economic dominance, succumbed to a similarly fatal decadence? The end is not yet upon us, but are the barbarians knocking at a gate that is no longer being defended?
It is certainly true that many Americans no longer subscribe to the values that made our nation great. They — especially the liberals — believe that our democracy is bankrupt and that our market system is inherently unfair. Instead, they would like us to emulate the West Europeans and embrace what they call “social democracy.”
To see what is happening, we need look no further than the last line of our national anthem. It proclaims that America is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” But is this true? Are we as a people still living up to these values?
Our recent election argues otherwise. Thus, a majority of Americans voted for a president who rarely praises the virtues of liberty. To the contrary, he prefers to fly the standard of “social justice.” By this he means that our federal government has a duty to enforce his version of fairness.
Barack Obama and his supporters believe that the federal government must be our keepers. They are convinced that the rest of us cannot make good decisions unless they (our liberal leaders) guide us in the proper direction. This, of course, translates into ever more regulations and a larger burden of taxes.
The bottom line is that in exchange for safety ordinary citizens are asked cede their personal freedoms. Genuine freedom, it is assumed, inevitably leads to mistakes and unfairness, and therefore cannot be tolerated.
As to demonstrating courage, what greater failure of nerve can there be than voluntarily surrendering one’s right to decide to a bevy of strangers who insincerely claim to have our interests at heart? Free peoples do make mistakes, but they also have the intestinal fortitude to correct these without resorting childish helplessness.
Thankfully our military has not yet gone spineless. The bravery our soldiers and sailors have shown in defense of our liberties has been exemplary. And yet we have an administration intent on hollowing out our armed forces. Yes, there are words in tribute to their heroism, but then comes the budgetary ax.
A truly brave people, a truly free people, would be up in arms at these trends. They would be outraged by the lies they have been told and by the diminution in personal and national power they have suffered.
But no, many Americans are evidently more worried that the federal government has yet to provide them with free contraceptives. Nor were they willing to celebrate the business success of the truly good man who sought to lead them.
Amazingly, citizens who continue to assume that they are the hope of the free world have opted to be led by the nose by a false prophet and his ignoble disciples.
Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D., is professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.