Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Old New Romans

Canadians have had a long history of comparing America to the Roman Empire (e.g., The New Romans, Hurtig, 1968.), so I couldn't help drawing a parallel between the election of the first black (well, he's a bit black anyway) President yesterday, and the election of Trajan as the first non-Roman emperor. Trajan revitalized the empire simply by being Emperor (though he was also a pretty good organizer, general, and etc. as it happens) because he proved that the extension of Roman citizenship to everyone in the Empire was authentic. You no longer had to be a Roman to work your way up to the seat of power. This immediately united the Empire because every general and governor stopped dreaming about rebelling and setting up their own little fiefdom, and instead took seriously the thought that one day they might get to be Emperor of the whole thing. Listening to CBC's The Current this morning interviewing social workers in Chicago and how, knowing that Obama had started as an activist in their community, they were all saying that his election proved that anyone could make it to President, that the next generation of kids could look to him and think, all I have to do is work and it is possible to make it in America. It's complete nonsense, of course, you still have to come from a rich and powerful family to make it and everything else is just ideology and statistical outriders, but the reinstatement of one of the central hegemonic ideals of American democracy might just save that nation from going further down the dark road (Weimar republic parallels!) it appeared to be on.

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