The nation has suffered a succession of political leaders who have made poor decisions in regard to sustaining growth and economic stability.  At the same time, foreign demands have led to shaky alliances with other countries which impact trade, as well as security. The military forces have been spread too thin and are stationed throughout the world, leaving the homeland less guarded and less secure. After witnessing repetitive violations of laws by high profile citizens who incur little to no consequences, the masses have grown detached from the importance of respect for the law and order of a civilized society. The citizenry has become splintered in their allegiances: siding with voices who speak to their own ideas of the role of government and its obligations to its people.  With loyalties linked to specific entitlements, public programs and mounting military demands throughout the world, government spending continues to swell as politicos attempt to appease their supporters. In order to pay for these expenses, new taxes have been imposed, current taxation rates have been increased more currency has had to be minted; all of which leads to higher inflation and higher costs for everyday goods. Citizens are becoming less favorable to the leaders whom they had once praised. Meanwhile, threats continue to mount from every corner of the world and peace seems stretched to a breaking point.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you?  One might read the situation synopsis above and conclude that this is the state of America in 2009.  But no, America is not the distressed nation described above.  These are the circumstances around A.D. 476…just before the fall of Rome.

fall of rome

There is an old axiom that claims “history will teach us nothing.”  In reading through chronicles of world history, one can certainly appreciate the allegation of this thought.  Century after century, generation after generation, humans exhibit the same types of actions and reactions to the world around them. The situation of Rome at the time of its downfall strikes an eerie similarity to that of our own country. 

Our Founding Fathers (and Mothers – thank you Abigail and Martha) did not start out with a blank slate to begin theG Washginton creation of a new nation.  They were learned men who had studied the stories of great civilizations and took note of the key elements that were necessary for success.  Throughout the many documents they produced and their personal correspondence, our Founders provided us with essential instructions and tenets to carry forth – among them the concept that freedom is a God-given right; education of the people is vital; and that true independence is born only through sacrifice, responsibility and, to some, a heavy personal cost.  

James Madison

James Madison

Since the inception of the United States, Americans have been witness to the genius of our Founders’ perceptions of the governance of man.  We have seen the triumphs and failures of our forefathers and, yet, we seem incapable of applying “old” lessons to modern problems. 

With each generation, the collective knowledge of new discoveries and technologies has furthered our success as a nation.  Unfortunately, the excitement of the new tends to overshadow the voices of our Founders…and we find ourselves repeating the same mistakes over and over.  

In the account of the fall of Rome, one of the main problems was the surmounting national debt.  Deficit spendingCoin from last days of rome seems to have been the solution of choice for ancient politicians as well as our own modern-day gang.  Again, we can look to our Founders and find a warning against such actions. In a letter to James Madison in 1789, George Washington states, “No generation has a right to contract debts greater than can be paid off during the course of its own existence.”

The Roman state also suffered from indifference and malaise throughout their populace. Citizens of an indulgent Rome grew bored of mundane matters, such as politics and policy, and turned their attentions to more exciting entertainments.  Had they heeded the message, even then, Romans had the wisdom of Classical Greek philosophers to guide their actions:




“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”
Plato  B.C. 429-347. 

The lesson for our generation is simple.  We must engage.  Turn off the reality-TV.   Skip a ballgame. Forego the mall.  We must take time to educate ourselves on the issues that affect our lives and those of our children.  We should look into the details of the solutions proposed by our politicians.  We cannot sit by and allow others to tell us whether something is good or bad.  And, we must look at the whole story, rather than simply believe the spin.   

Thomas Jefferson stated,  “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” To turn our heads from the ugliness of politics, the tedium of policies, or the general governance of our cities, states and nation, is to diminish the importance of our remarkable foundation and the gift of freedom from our Founders. 

And that is…Why It Matters.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

  1. Inspiring article – Thank you April.
    But what is the solution?

    • Good question. The one thing that I think is important in countering ignorance is education. However, the education must represent all truths, and not just those tenents that we wish to encourage. For instance, history shows us that man’s nature is the same throughout the centuries. We cannot think that we are ever “above” the base nature of our species. That premise leads us into dangerous waters.

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