We, the USA, land of the free and home of the brave, think we have history. We don’t. Like, technically we do as in we’ve done stuff and we’ve fought wars and we’ve secured at least a page in the history books. And lest you think I’m not giving us credit, I’ll be the first to praise our nation for making an unprecedented global impact founded upon an unprecedented system of government. Problem is, along with the whole “unprecedented” package comes a novelty status we have yet to out-live. Honestly, if this country were to end tomorrow, that page in the history books would have the heading, “The American Experiment.”
With that introduction in mind, I would like to make a statement which I will spend this blog post defending, and I only ask that you seriously consider the evidence to follow.
Here it is: On its current path American democracy will fail, and it will be the peoples’ (NOT the government’s) fault. Why? Because the American people do not want democracy, we want a monarchy; specifically, we want one person to make our decisions, fight our wars and take all blame. Still with me? Then stay with me and consider a few historical case studies.
Before us (or US, because puns), the only real model of democracy was 5th century (BC) Athens. Which meant that after the fall of the Athenian empire, nobody thought it was a very good idea for a long time. I’ll leave the particular systematic critiques to Thucydides and instead focus simply on Athens’ most fatal mistake¹: they got too greedy. As the empire grew in wealth and power, they stretched their arms and began poking around looking for more wealth and more power. Instead they just managed to tick off Sparta. I believe Zack Snyder taught us all what a poor decision that is. But, you take a vengeful warrior nation and throw in a little infrastructure instability with class warfare² and you’ve got a good recipe for the fall of ancient democracy. Now, the message here is not that we’re going to be conquered by Gerard Butler any time soon. We just need to understand that our nation’s current state of affairs is far from stable.
Napoleon Bonaparte’s is the story of the perfect storm³. Our focus here is the storm itself rather than the man. I mean, the country was basically gift-wrapped and delivered to him, batteries included some assembly required. The scary thing is, the process was fairly simple. Basically, when you give a majority people a cookie– I mean, a government run by the corrupt elite⁴, they’ll want a revolution. When they’re done revolting, they’ll want another government. When they don’t see one lying around anywhere, they’ll turn to the man-of-the-people military hero. He and his friends will graciously accept the offer and establish a monarchy disguised as a tiered government (but when you give a majority a cookie… oh, nevermind). The moral of the story is that people want to be heard, but once they are heard they want to be led. And right now, I’ve never seen the people of America so desperate to be heard.
We of course have to look at Adolf Hitler’s Germany. But before we can get there we have to give a quick shout-out to Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck found Germany in a state of complete disunity, which, combined with a roller-coaster economy, allowed for a relatively painless seizure of power over much of Europe. It was actually the aftermath of Bismarck’s Germany that paved the way for Hitler’s rise to power. In the years that followed Bismarck, the nation grew increasingly economically troubled and displeased (to put it mildly) with the government. In fact, things were in such need of repair that the only ingredient left for Hitler to subject an entire nation to his twisted ideology was a common enemy. Now, take this next question at face value. Is there much difference between Germany’s pre-holocaust attitude toward Jews and our own brewing hatred of Muslims?
Every presidential election year I hear about how voter turnout is decreasing. If we’re to believe the stats, that’s not exactly true. In fact, there’s a scarier statistic: our country’s Senate and House of Representatives are voted in by a minority population. That means our laws are being made by people who DO NOT reflect the voice of the country, and that is a very bad thing. It also tells me two things about our national attitude: (1) we don’t understand how democracy works, and (2) we’re still looking to one man to make our decisions, fight our wars and take all blame. And when that man doesn’t actually have power to do all of that, things get… problematic…
My point with all this is simple. This week, get out and vote for our country’s representatives (remember that’s plural). Keep this democracy running. I love this country; I love the freedom our government allows and I love the opportunities available because of that freedom. And I DO NOT want to see history repeat itself.
Sources, because I didn’t just pull all this out my rear-end:
1. Kagan, D. (1991). The fall of the Athenian Empire. Cornell University Press.
2. Nafissi, M. (2004). Class, embeddedness, and the modernity of ancient athens. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 46(2), 378-410. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/212608884?accountid=4488
3. Ellis, G. J. (2003). Napoleonic Empire. Gordonsville, VA, USA: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com
4. Nygaard, B. (2007). The meanings of “bourgeois revolution”: Conceptualizing the french revolution. Science & Society, 71(2), 146-172. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/216149127?accountid=4488
5. Stackelberg, R. (1999). Hitler’s Germany : Origins, Interpretations, Legacies. London, GBR: Routledge. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com