By Mike Lander on
“Born To Be Wild“; U. S. 1929. “Are you not entertained?” – Gladiator (2000). Maybe it’s just that I have been watching the film recently for the umpteenth time. Not only is it a great film, in my opinion, but relevant to today’s conversation. As you may know I was a high school Social Studies teacher in my former life. Before classes began each day at about 8 o’clock in the morning the department held an informal discussion about the day’s events over breakfast. Our department had many talented and perhaps overqualified teachers including several with Ph.Ds and law degrees. They represented the full spectrum of opinions from liberal to conservative.
This was during the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. We discussed what the future held in store for the United States. Some saw the U. S fracturing and resembling South Africa during apartheid. There was also the view that the U. S. was coming to resemble the Roman Empire after its defeat of Carthage. A volunteer army. Unchecked illegal immigration. Corruption. “Bread and Circus” maybe not held in the Coliseum, but featuring martial arts combat displays. The analogies were frightening. We considered the U. S. following World War II as similar to the Roman Republic, but it had become a different animal over time. After all, 500 years ago Spain was a world power!
For democracy to work well everyone has to be informed and participate. You need to have skin in the game. When legislators are paid salaries they become susceptible to corruption. This is why we do not have professional salaried jurors, rather they receive a small compensation for only travel expenses.
Today we are witness to a plan called the “destruction of the administrative state” as they say. Economic nationalism is one thing, but to purposely attack the institutions which form the bedrock of the legal system and the rule of law is quite another. Current attacks on the Justice Department and the FBI serve to undermine what the United States represents. To label the press as an “enemy of the people” is unconscionable. Not content, the Circus goes on to now ask for a Senator’s resignation simply because he questioned the qualifications of a Presidential nominee to appointment as head the Veterans Administration.
In Gladiator, Commodus has set about to destroy the people’s faith in the Senate and to eliminate the institution entirely. He reasons that gladiatorial events in the Coliseum will make the people forget the principles of Roman law and come to love only him. He demands loyalty! In the U. S. we replace our leaders through the ballot box, but this was not so in Roman times. Our leaders are people just like us even if they act like Caesar. Our checks and balance system may not seem to work at times. I have confidence that when all is said and done it will prevail. As Maximus Decimus Meridius said, “The time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end, Highness”.