The Roman Empire was one of the earliest and most successful representative democracies, thriving as a Republic for almost 500 years. Many American political elements were inspired by the Romans, such as the system of separation of powers and the presidential veto. Economic failures led to political degeneration, and Romans elected populists whose encroachment resulted in the political dysfunction that eventually led to the empire’s fall.
Romans failed to stop their nation’s deterioration mainly because they never envisioned the possibility of their great country dying. They sat back as their political infrastructure was eroded by dishonesty, responding with indifference. Politicians staged “The Games” to distract the general populace from internal issues. They no longer required integrity from their leaders. They became complacent. Sound familiar?
A study done by Pew Research Center reveals that a mere 20% of Americans trust their government. While our ‘games’ may not occur in an arena, inflated news headlines fight for our attention, pulling our attention to trivial matters. Many politicians are even guilty of this, debating and inflating frivolous culture war issues while crucial topics go publicly undiscussed. Last March, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was criticized for sharing a video of him reading Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss while the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion piece of legislation, was being passed in the Senate. A few weeks ago, it was revealed that China had launched a hypersonic missile test for a rocket that would circle the globe in low-Earth orbit, increasing China-US tensions. Yet, the Biden administration chose to focus on the swearing-in of Rachel Levine, a four-star general, the nation’s first transgender four-star officer. Unfortunately, whenever news of real substance is announced, it seems almost formulaic that some dramatic cultural headline replaces it within mere hours.
Americans revel in a false sense of security as our values and political norms are quietly eroding. The corruption that began with Watergate acted as a slippery slope to habituate Americans to accept a certain degree of government corruption. We have responded with shocking indifference to radical actions that have chipped away at our liberties; Americans have become less cognizant of these slow erosions as we’re barraged with other outlets vying for our attention. Aggressive military action is obscured with the most recent celebrity divorce, and some new social faux pas is debated while unconstitutional legislation is enacted.
As Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” We must reinvigorate the American spirit and demand integrity from our leaders. We must realign our culture’s priorities. We must relinquish these ‘games’ and fight for the future of our nation. Democracies die due to indifference. America must be “fought for, protected, and handed on for them [future generations] to do the same.”
Jordan Lamb is the Content Editor for the Texas Horn. Growing up in Austin, she is a Government major at UT with concentrations in Chinese and Social and Behavioral Sciences. She is a team-oriented individual who is passionate about leadership, government, and law.