How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.
- Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Philosopher (121-180 A.D.)
One of the sharpest quotes I’ve heard spoken in my lifetime came from General Colin Powell arguing for the approval of Resolution 1441 to the members of the U.N. Security Council:
I’m very pleased to be here as the secretary of state of a relatively new country on the face of the Earth, but I think I can take some credit sitting here as being the representative of the oldest democracy that is assembled here around this table. Proud of that.
source: The Weekly Standard
Proud of that.
Speaking before the 14 other nations of the UNSC, some of whom had some serious misgivings about the resolution, I love how Powell got in that polite little bit of a reality check to start the speech – oh by the way, we may be among the youngest of nations assembled here, but we’re also the oldest democracy, making us the blueprint and inspiration for every one of your democracies that followed.
After the defeat of the Nazis and after the Soviets lost the Cold War, there is not an honest historian alive who could argue that the United States of America is anything other than the greatest civilization of the last two-and-a-half centuries and America continues to be the greatest living civilization on the face of the Earth. When I think of that fact, it sometimes leads me to think back on history and ponder the fates of all the other great civilizations in history.
I want to share a scene from Swing Vote, an enjoyable political comedy that flew under most people’s radar. In this scene, the schoolchildren have been asked to offer their essays on “Why It’s Important to Vote.”
All the world’s great civilizations have followed the same path. From bondage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy back to bondage. If we are to be the exception to history, then we must break the cycle, for those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. – Molly Johnson, Swing Vote
The topic was why it’s important to vote, but Molly also gave us a much wider view of history relating to the pattern of democracies in the past.
Should we imagine that we’re somehow immune to the same cycle that befell every other great democracy, just because we’re Americans? America is the great civilization of our time, but I wonder at what stage of this great civilization we’re in now.
In my mind, it was the founding fathers who had it right in declaring that every person is born with inalienable rights granted by God and that the government’s one and only purpose should be to prevent the infringement of those inalienable rights by one person upon another.
Now we live in a land where we’ve seen an electorate that has voted not just once, but twice for an administration which believes it is the government that grants the rights, that it is the government that should be the provider, dividing up and doling out the prosperity to a people that it considers mere subjects of the Almighty State.
I refuse to believe that we’re beyond the point of no return, but I ask you, at what stage do you think our civilization is currently in?