Author’s Note: This was originally published on Poppycock in February of 2011 as an excerpt of an ongoing work. This is still not finished, but this is the entirety of that original article. This is a piece I will continue to work on. I may change this in to a bit more a narrative, but as it stands it is a look in to the events that could crush this country’s infrastructure. I have always felt that American civility and society is very tenuous and that it would not take much to turn upright citizens in to outright criminals adopting them “us or them” mentality of a dystopian survivalist. We will continue to refine and edit this article, but I felt it might be nice to share a little gem from the past that’s never been seen before. Give it a read and if you like, let me know how off base I am. Cheers.
Or: The only thing we didn’t steal from Rome was…ummmmm, wait I’ll come up with something…
No empire rises in a vacuum and no civilization progresses without the foundation set forth by it’s predecessors. America may be a country, I won’t argue with ya there, but we’re most definitely an empire, too. We have grown as nations, and now tandem, we have both done our share of nation building, empire expansion, and overall oppression/exploitation of people and foreign soil on the way to the top. America as a nation has taken symbols, words, and it’s queues, from maybe one of the greatest empires to achieve the foothold we have now exceeded in the world landscape; the Roman empire.
America has bastardized and prostituted the very concepts that made Rome great, for our own profit and advancement. We took their democracy, seemingly entitled imperialism, protracted warfare on foreign soil, slavery, and prostitution. The parallel between the rise and the eventual fall of the American empire and that of the Romans is staggering. People don’t like to think about our magnanimous nation as an “empire.” The gentry and the benevolent like to think we are a “nation” or a “country” because it tastes better in our mouths than what we truly are. In one breath we embrace our world power status and then turn the other cheek and try to downplay the fact; like an actor who says it’s just an honor to be nominated.
There is a great argument in the historical community as to the actual fall of Rome. Logically one could argue that, since it still exists, it never really fell. The monuments are still there and the city as a whole is quite literally built on top of the remains of the former empire. The city is built on the bones of those that came before them; those that inhabited quite possibly the greatest empire on which the sun ever set. But the end did come, in a very real sense when the German Odoacer took charge of the Western portion of the Roman Empire. Long before that, the Eastern Empire had gone Byzantine with a capital at Constantinople, and once you go with the big B, you never go back.
Some argue that there might have been one single cause to the fall of the empire, but that is so like modern people to try to boil a cause to one single thing. Much like our own civil war, where people think slavery was the reason for the war, it’s roots are not set in the soil of just one red-handed culprit. Rome slowly tripped, stumbled, and then slumped over on the side of the road before it truly fell. The world around the Roman empire, and the lands it took over, complicated it’s governance and as times changed things became harder to corral and keep control over before she finally started to buckle under her very own weight.
It began to show it’s age as Christianity became a commanding and controlling force in the world along with it’s predecessor, Judaism. Islam also rose as a world-wide force to be reckoned with. Though the Roman Empire let most cultures and traditions continue in absorbed regions, they slowly moved people over to more Roman daily living; the religions grew nonetheless with a pertinacious determination. Constantine himself transferred the empire over to Christianity under his rule and is responsible for many churches, not to mention one of the first canonized Bibles. Outside of this was an expansive empire with more people than the emperor could contend with controlling and keeping happy. Taxes became an issue as the swelling debt of the empire began to bloat with protracted battles for control and defense on more fronts than they could financially support. Outside of that was widespread diseases, lead poisoning in water supplies, and food difficulties, not to mention the world-changing and growing outside of the reach of it’s rulers.
The empire grew fast over centuries and then slowly decayed as new dangers, evils, and simple day-to-day difficulties, made it increasingly difficult to control. The mere idea of the empire being divided in to East and West shows that the empire had grown too difficult to control from one location. Remember, as you conquer a land and a people, absorbing them in to the Roman proletariat, there are ideological, geographical, and linguistic barriers to deal with. This was an empire made up of many tongues, and we all know how that went at Babel.
Hmmm, all of this seems to sound familiar. This whole rise and fall of one of the greatest empires in history seems to ring true with me somehow; it’s like I can almost relate to it. Oh that’s right, because it is happening to us! We are right on track to see a fall more violent and abrupt than the Romans could ever have envisioned. Don’t think it’s possible? Look at our wars, our debt, our country divided. Take a gander at the corruption, taxes, protests, and ideological melting pot we live in; shit, it’s a boiling cauldron at this point. Look at the Middle East, a portion of the world we’ve been raping and trying to nation build, i.e. colonize, for some forty years. Take at look at our schools, commerce, racism, decadence, and our complete ineptitude to do anything about it. Do you actually think we are on the crumbling edge looking in to the maw relegating us to the history pages of some English finishing school? The columns are cracking, friend.
America took it’s Manifest Destiny and expanded beyond our rights, doing it by force and dirty tricks calling it all our land, our crop, our animal, and anyone who disagreed could face our front lines at their own risk. This nation was a cesspool of whores, drunks, and psychopaths…then we got civilized. We became a world power, exerting our will through force and threat of poverty or death on anyone that opposed us to win wars, get our hands in so many pies, and begin to control the world without even having to be in any part of the world. We operated as a shadow government with secret wars, hired guns, and coming up with any bullshit excuse to pick a fight for some good ol’ fashioned profiteering and being able to call ourselves patriots.
The American Empire followed every step of the Roman cookbook, and still does. We have the dead and God on money. We invoke the name of our Lord to justify war to the bible belt and Jesus freaks; if it’s good enough for the Alpha and the Omega, then it is good enough for me. We operate in a level of debt that staggers the mind. Literally, a human being can’t count to the number 14 trillion in multiple lifetimes. We are not too big to fail, we are just getting big enough to fail. This nation is fighting multiple wars on many fronts with assets and liabilities in multiple nations with no end in sight; we have been in Afghanistan for a damn decade at this point.
We have all this debt, this spending, and these taxes, yet the infrastructure is failing so epically. We have shit schools, for-profit colleges raping students with tuition-cocks, and we have no universal healthcare while government offices fail every day. The Post Office, Social Security, Welfare, Unemployment, prisons, and on and on; nothing is working well. This whole country is held together by a single concept. Yes, there is the patriotism glasses we wear as we peer through the cracks in the fingers covering our eyes. Yes, there is the happiness that we aren’t “somewhere else,” and America is number one, but that’s not it. The duct tape keeping this country from full-blown revolution coupled with a complete breakdown of every semblance of a civilized nation is a simple one: it’s not that bad. That’s it, just that it’s not that bad.
But you say it could never happen here. Are you that naive? You don’t think that the same fate the felled Rome can’t happen here? Well let’s take a trip in to the possibility machine. What would it take to break down Americans to roving bands of rebel forces and militia groups like something out of Mad Max? I think it wouldn’t take very much. Think about it…all it would take is three bad days…
Day one brings the catalyst; the stock market opens to a massive crash. Within 70 minutes of the first bell, the dollar has become devalued to thirteen cents. This causes a world-wide panic that nearly topples the international markets by days end. Evening paper headlines read: “The Dollar Crashes,” “America in Full Blown Bankruptcy,” The Final Bell Tolls on Wall Street.” CNN is reporting at six PM that an estimated 385 of the Fortune 500 will be closing their doors the next day. Analysts at FOX News begin hypothesizing that the unemployment rate in America will erupt to anywhere from 68-80 percent within the week as companies simply close down. With the dollar in this conditions there is no one to go to for capital to stay afloat. The nation is stunned as tomorrow will most likely be the first day of the last days; Uncle Sam has been brought to his knees inside ten hours. So the chaos begins to ensue.
Obama appeals to the people at 7 pm EST in a national broadcast marking that this was a terrible day in American history, but he urges people to stay calm, and as Americans we can win the future with perseverance and the spirit that made this country great in adversity in the past. Reports indicate that some nearly one and a half million pink slips will be issued the following day in both the private and public sector. Obama further urges people to stay in their homes as he knows that there are reports of violence in the streets. Obama further informs the nation that he will be calling for all schools to be closed the next day as the government agencies have received a larger than normal amount of what they call “marginally credible threats” against the safety of Americans. Obama says it is simply a precaution and that he is working through the might with his cabinet and advisors to address the problem and see to it that all Americans are taken care of in the interim so that power, water, and all public services stay in full working order in the coming days…this only makes people more nervous.
It starts with small pockets of unrest and growing reports of looting in the night, knowing they don’t have a job to go to tomorrow. Why go to work if the money you were to earn is worth two cents on the dollar? Peaceful demonstrations and protests outside public buildings decays in to moderate violence brought on by the outrage. Looting leads the news after the crash; deaths have already been tallied in trying to quell rioters. LA, NY, Chicago, Detroit, San Diego, Seattle, Atlanta, and others break out in to chaos as people ransack every shop and market, every grocery store and car dealership. In just one day the poor to the upper class have taken it upon themselves to prepare for the worst.
On the dawn of day two the fires still roar, but the streets are practically empty in some places as others have fled the cities when the looting slowed before first light. In the night protests and marches were organized by those that had kept their head in the night. The sunrise is obscured by tire fires and massive blazes that still burn from the night before. The firefighters and police are trying to control the violence and madness, but the entire city is alive with fear and rage; there are never enough cops for something no one planned for. With the violence not ending, the country grinding to a halt in commerce and work attendance, the market opens to no gain and hope for bouncing back is lost; the world gave up on the dollar. As a result gas stations are looted, some explode in the commotion and violence around the limited gasoline left in the country. Homes are now being broken in to as stores have basically been picked clean in the highest traffic areas. Bodies are now lying around longer with no one to collect them; 911 is only a recorded message anymore, no getting through, and no one to help if you could.
By that evening grocery stores have been stripped bare and the nationwide damage is in the billions. Flights have been grounded, and Obama has urged police in major cities to declare a state of emergency using the support of the national guard and institute a curfew and martial law over major metropolitan areas. While all of this goes on people have decided to barricade themselves in their homes or to hit the street looking for answers through demonstrations and looking for someone to take their anger out on…DC turns on the White House. Under the pressures of a roaring crowd of people trying to get in to see the President, one nervous National Guardsman accidentally fires his weapon, getting his first and last kill as many armed in the crowd open fire back and before anyone could blink AMericans are killing Americans on the lawn at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave…and this is the end.
It is the night of Day two and martial law covers the entire nation, in cities that still have some semblance of order or power structure. In smaller towns the police and law enforcement have lost all control and gave up. It is anarchy. People violating the curfew are being detained, beaten, and gunfights are breaking out by the thousands all over the country and the firefighting force has broken down; square miles of cities are on fire as skyscrapers in Chicago, NY, and LA begin to crumble from fire damage. The President has been removed from the White House and citizens have ransacked it; it smolders in the glow of the flood lights, black stains and burns spot the previously white exterior.
The National Guardsmen aren’t enough, especially since most went AWOL, so the President has called in the military forces stateside and appealed allies like Canada for help, but they won’t help to control the American people, many of whom are already clogging the closed border to Canada; those not willing to risk death in America have become illegal immigrants in to Mexico in search of relative safety. A transformation in to the very thing they criticized from a Starbucks patio when the hog was so fat….on Monday.
By the morning of day three the military is trying to exert control stateside while soldiers overseas have gotten word of the trouble at home. It has become clear they will not get paid, their families aren’t getting paid whether they live or die, and now they see the very nation they fought for crumbling in on itself…they abandon their posts and go AWOL, doing anything they can to get back home. Pilots take troops home by the hundreds on commandeered planes. Aircraft carriers turn back, some under duress of mutiny, and make for the closest port they can call home on America’s shores. The war in the Middle East ended, but it lasted 48 hours longer than America…our legacy.
What little structure still exists at the federal and local level has turned to attempting to feed and clothe those who may have been looted in the madness. Bread lines and shelters, not too different from those in the depression have set up shop in churches and former Goodwill locations that are still inhabitable. FEMA, one of the few remaining forces had began distributing clean water, clothes, and food on day two, but by day three it is simply volunteers too scared and lost to do anything but help. Same goes for the non-profits, homeless shelter volunteers, and even the police and firefighters that can still stand after pulling 20 hour shifts. What is left in the good of Americans still swells in the hearts of those that went thankless when we had it all such a short time ago.
News hits the airwaves in America, for those still watching, America has been declared an emergency state and qualifies for UN aid and military support. Furthermore the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon has issued a statement supporting the nations need to protect itself, but also informing the world that the President of the United States will face a specially selected board to answer questions as to the cause of the collapse and his actions subduing the unrest in the nation; deadly force and martial law resulting in deaths will be the main focus as determining the possibility of war crime charges being filed against the US government. The Guardian’s morning headline will read, “Obama; War Criminal,” Le Monde will run a photo of Obama with his head in his hands before a speech in front of Parliament begging for help alongside a color coded map of the US showing the levels of unrest and damage with the headline, “America’s Last President.” La Presse, of Montreal, will run “America No More.”
It is over. Cities are littered with bodies and have crumbled. In most places there is no power, water, or safety of any kind. Foreign journalists file reports in the streets of New York and LA like they were in Baghdad. Seas of people protest and try to cry out for help from other nations as cameras are turned on them. It is every man for himself as curfews are getting harder to enforce with so few police and military personnel still holding to their codes and oaths; none of them signed up to kill Americans and they wanted to be with their own families, to defend them. The President no longer has any power to wield over the situation. He makes a statement from the relative safety of England, alongside the Prime Minister, speaking to wanting to fix the nation, a heart breaking few days, and the hope for the future he holds for his country and countrymen. “I will not be the President that let his nation kill itself.” But he already is. Over the now burnt out husk of the White House, the American flag flies upside down.
What? A little dramatic? Rome didn’t fall in a day any more than it was built-in one. Don’t fool yourself, if this country found out on a Wednesday that money was no obsolete, Goldman/Sachs’ offices would be rubble on Thursday morning. This country would fall apart inside a week. No jobs, no savings, an apple that costs $45? It would be animal survival inside the hour.It won’t come from a military coupe, It won’t be a people led revolution. We are to fucking fat and lazy sitting precariously high on the hog to fight for anything. We bitch about taxes, laws, rights, morals, issues, yada-fucking-yada, and yet we keep electing a democrat or republican despite the fact that these people are the damn problem. Oh, it might be a foreign invasion, like the Japanese teaming up with the Japanese to take Hawaii and Alaska before assaulting the Western coast full force. But that would look a lot like Normandy since we would see that coming…it would be epic though, with Canada and England backing us while Mexico flanked us during the fracas.
What I am simply saying is that we, as a nation, will collapse under our own weight. We have lived too far outside our own place and our own means for too long trying to absorb too much in to the collective. The chip is on our shoulders, but soon the shoe will be on the other foot. Our end will not come with a bang or a whimper, but with the sound of letting go of a balloon you didn’t tie off. This nation will deflate violently once the economy falls; the almighty dollar will be our end. No gay agendas, no Sharia law, or terrorist attacks. We will be our own undoing. Just as the Roman Empire, I think the only people who can beat us are ourselves. It would honestly take more than three days, but it would come like a breaking wave on the rocks. Our vanity and egos will topple this great nation as we move bolder and bolder towards the brink, thinking we can push the sky back just another inch. All empires go the way of Icarus, and even the Romans knew that story.