Summary: On 4 July 2006 I posted Forecast: Death of the American Constitution. Shocking then, but these past 8 years have made the Republic’s peril obvious to all who care. So we can skip through to the last section, reposted below. What does the future hold for America?
“There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.”
— Marcus Aurelius, in the movie “Gladiator” (2000)
The predominate reaction of the Romans to the death of the Republic was resignation, as seen in the popular philosophies of the Empire: Stoicism, Epicureanism, Hedonism, and Christianity. How will Americans react when they realize that the Constitution has died? Reform, rebellion, or resignation?
The coming years might test America more than anything in our past, including the Revolutionary and Civil wars. America might lose both what defines it and what we hold most dear: our Constitution, our vast wealth, and our role as global hegemon. This transition will be like a singularity in astrophysics, a point where the rules break – beyond which we cannot see.
Such trials appear throughout history. Consider Russia in 1942. Ruled by a madman. Their government had betrayed the hopes of the revolution, killed tens of millions of their own people, and reduced the nation to poverty. Most of their generals were dead, their armies were in full retreat, and vast areas were controlled by a ruthless invader. The mark of a great people is the ability to carry on when all is lost, including hope. We can learn much from the Russian people’s behavior in WWII.
I doubt we will fall into such peril. But no matter what happens, we need not despair.
Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Dr. Franklin “What have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic, if you can keep it” replied the Doctor.
— entry of 18 September 1787 in the Papers of Dr. James McHenry on the Federal Convention of 1887 (signer the Constitution, our 3rd Secretary of War, & namesake of Fort McHenry)
Our wealth is just things (“hardware”), an inheritance from past generations. What we lose we can work to replace. Our aspirations to global hegemony were revealed as a mirage in Vietnam and Iraq, lasting less than two generations after WWII.
Our culture is a collection of discordant ideas, mixing lofty and base elements in a manner despised by much of the world – a disgust easily understood by watching our TV shows and movies, or listening to some of our popular music.
Our Constitution is just an idea inherited from the founders. It’s our second Republic, after the Articles of Confederation. If it falls, its death will give us the experience to do better with the next one.
We are America. We are strong because of our ability to act together, to produce and follow leaders. We are strong due to our openness to other cultures and ability to assimilate their best aspects. We are strong due to our ability to adapt to new circumstances, to roll with defeat and carry on.
“People, ideas and hardware, in that order!”
— the late John R. Boyd (Colonel, USAF), “A Discourse on Winning and Losing”, August 1987
We will be what we want to be. The coming years will reveal what that is.
“There was a dream that was Rome. It shall be realized. These are the wishes of Marcus Aurelius.”
— Maximus Decimus Meridius, in the movie “Gladiator”
Other Independence Day Posts
- Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, 4 July 2006
- A report card for the Republic: are we still capable of self-government?, 4 July 2008
- What we should Americans do on the 4th of July?, 4 July 2010
- Advice from the past about ways to celebrate Independence Day, 3 July 2013
For More Information
Reference pages, links to posts about America: