In my 126 hour listen of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire I’m looking for something I can anchor modern America too. There are similarities everywhere if you want to see them, but that doesn’t mean they are accurate. So, I’m looking for big themes.
One jumped out at me: A country is built on faith.
What is a dollar really worth? A paper dollar is a promise of value. It used to mean there was a piece of gold somewhere you could theoretically exchange it for. Now it just means the US wants you to be able to exchange it for a dollar’s worth of goods or services. It takes faith. Everyone has to believe it’s worth whatever everyone else says it’s worth.
When that falls apart.. we are back to trading goods for services..
When the elite Roman soldiers, the Praetorians, realized they were the ones who had the power and that they could just murder emperors and install their buddies.. well.. things started to wobble in Rome. In one instance they actually auctioned off the Roman purple to the highest bidder (he too was murdered).
The faith in the Roman system was dying. Civil wars drained the country of its strength and the “barbarians” began eating away at territory and were used to replenish ranks within the city walls.
Donald Trump shook a lot of American pillars and faith in America is shaken.
He threw science under the bus.. doubting Climate Change, green energy, vaccines (even though he was all for it behind the scenes), even throwing the top doctors under the bus.
The media, whose credibility was already low after the advent of the clickable headline, was essentially destroyed by his relentless attacks.
The military was given mixed missions and had budgets stripped for wall building. Allies were left wondering if they could ever trust the US again. Iran used the mess to restart their nuclear weapons program.
The melting pot of America took a beating as well. Trump took a crowbar to the areas where Americans just barely were keeping it together and started smashing. Fellow Americans no longer just had different ideas, but were in fact the enemy. Old white guys wearing t-shirts saying, “I would rather be Russian than a Democrat” said a lot. BLM = Antifa = Enemy. It’s US vs. THEM now. This wasn’t sports or tax rates anymore, but life or death.
But the biggest pillar and most important was democracy itself. While “joking” for four years about being a 3–4 term president, and claiming the election he actually won was full of fraud, no one was really surprised him claiming the election was stolen from him in 2020. The only thing truly surprising was how willing other Republicans were to humor the lies.
This is a knife in the back of the country. The fact that supposedly 53% of Americans think he is still technically the President should be incredibly alarming to everyone. These are people who essentially believe democracy in America is dead and they live in a fascist police state. How horrifying things must be for them!
If this is truly the case, why isn’t there MORE political violence? Why aren’t there more protests and bombings? Maybe it’s easy to just keep watching Fox from the couch and be angry?
I hope this is not the case because I’m not sure what it would take convince these people otherwise anymore.