I think all of us have a point where we say, “I’m done!” For all of us there is a line where, once it is crossed, we see no way for things to turn around; they must proceed forward to their inevitable conclusion. It’s that moment where the foot has left the edge of the cliff and, unlike in the cartoons, there is no suspending in mid-air. The chances of sprouting wings and flying to safety are remote. Gravity must and will take over. Body will meet earth.
Bread and circuses. That was what Rome gave to it’s citizens to keep them docile. By 274 A.D. Emperor Aurelian decided that people were entitled to government benefits if they parents had been receiving them.
Addictions increased as the Republic slowly declined.
Government corruption was rampant. The economy plunged towards bankruptcy as more people ended up on the government dole, taxes increased, unemployment rose. Urban blight rose as more left agricultural areas — which became known as “Empire Farms”, using slave labor — and crammed into the cities. Cities leaders spent more on luxury items, leaving little for infrastructure, leading to the increase in blight and eventual bankruptcy of municipalities.
And of course, as cities declined, crime rose. Internal strife and insurrections increased.
Rome could no longer defend it’s borders.
It’s military was in decline. Once the conquerors of worlds, the military became over extended. The Emperors began hiring and training mercenaries as citizens lost interest in serving the Empire and more interested in the Empire serving them. These foreign soldier eventually took their knowledge and training and turned it against the Roman Legions.
The creators of the Appian Way, the Pons Aemilius, the Aqueducts, and the Colosseum faltered in technological innovation and production having concentrated mainly on engineering and the organization of public services. “The Roman Senate failed to balance the numerous excesses and grotesqueries of the emperors by reason of its own pervasive corruption, cowardice and duplicity. Thus, as Roman society descended into existential chaos, national pride diminished and many Roman citizens grew cynical and lost confidence in their leadership; lost faith in what it meant to be truly ‘Roman.'” (“On Edward Gibbons: History of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, Part II” by Ellis Washington 2/22/15)
I’ve only lived 54 years; I’m sure my parents, now in their 80s, could speak even more to the dramatic changes in American society. In my short 54 years, America has seen the Space Age, the Age of Aquarius, the Vietnam War, The Cold War, the New Age, and the New Millennium. The culture has witnessed mini-skirts, hippies and Free Love. Plastic pants, the “Me” generation, and “The Joy of Sex”. The Go-Go, the Hustle, the Break Dance, and the Twerk. “Bonanza”, “Maude”, “Saturday Night Live”, and Janet Jackson’s “Wardrobe Failure”. “Midnight Cowboy”, “Saturday Night Fever”, “Basic Instinct”, and “Fifty Shades of Gray”. I don’t see that we’re getting any better.
Of course, I argue that from a Christian perspective. Others may have a completely different view than I do. Apparently they do. It is my conclusion that, outside of an act of God, we have crossed the Rubicon as a nation, and our decline will not take the 200 plus years it took the Roman Empire. Likely I will see the demise of America within my lifetime. Does that mean that we’ll cease to exist as a nation? I don’t know. I know it won’t be the nation of our founding.
It is when I saw the preview for “Sex In A Box” that the last nail went into the coffin for me. It’s our “Bread and Circuses”. Others may be more optimistic. It does take only a small keel to turn a mighty ship…if there is enough time to turn before disaster strikes. I don’t think we’ve even noticed the iceberg, yet. I think it’s only going to get worse. I imagine at some point any allusion of morality will not only be met with criticism, but may, in certain circumstances, cost you your freedom, if not your life. I’m pretty sure many will see this as hyperbole. I hope it is. I hope our nation has a “Jesus Come To Meeting” moment and we turn things around; we get out of debt, our politicians become honest and answerable to their constituents, we start saying that shows like “Sex In A Box” are not only unfit for television, but unfit for anything, and we quit pitting each other against one another. I hope there are no longer hyphenated Americans, just Americans. I hope we once again become the country that others want to emulate. I just don’t see that happening anytime soon or anytime later. But if you think you can convince me that I’m wrong I beg you to try. And I hope YOU are right.