By Yvonne Sam
Social and Political Commentator
During my post graduate studies, I was forced to vicariously walk among the ruins of a number of some fallen ancient empires — Roman, Egyptian, Greek, Israelite and Byzantine, plus a number of lesser-known kingdoms.
In 476 CE, Romulus, the last of the Roman emperors, was overthrown by the Germanic leader, Odoacer, who became the first Barbarian to lead Rome. Following the death of Cleopatra in 30 BCE, Egypt fell to the Roman Empire and became a Roman province. The Greeks were defeated in the battle of Corinth in 146 BC. The kingdom of Israel (Samaria or Northern Kingdom) existed as an independent state until conquered in 722 BC by the Assyrian Empire. The kingdom of Judah (Southern Kingdom) existed as an independent state until conquered by the Neo-Babylonians in 568 BC. The Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire) fell in 1453, when an Ottoman army stormed Constantinople during the reign of ConstantinopleX1.
These fallen empires all share some commonalities — they all never imagined, or believed, until it was too late, that they could fall. Nevertheless, it did, leaving death and disaster, as their worlds collapsed around them.
It is somewhat sobering to come to the reality that tragedies do not come from the outside, but can easily come from inside. In fact, Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s best loved and sixteenth president, paid cognizance to this fact, long before the bloody Civil War that propelled him to fame.
As a young man, he enunciated his concern for the future of his country. In his January 27, 1838 address, before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, he remarked thus: “At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some Transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa, combined with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge in trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reaches us, it must spring up amongst us, it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time or die by suicide.”
The poignant and puzzling question is, could a nation really die by suicide? Well Lincoln really believed so, and his warning speech set in motion a political career that ultimately took him to the White House.
His warning was also ominously apocalyptic, since a generation later, America, the nation, would tear itself apart as state fought against state and brother against brother. The country came dangerously close to dying “by suicide”. She paid a terrible price, with more than 600,000 young men dying in battle or from diseases, such as typhoid, typhus or dysentery. To this day America still bears the scars of this conflict.
Another prophetic warning about the nation came from one of the founding fathers, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson.
In his notes on the State of Virginia, he states thus: “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of theses peoples that these liberties are of the gift of God ……. Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”
Today America stands at an intersection, or crossroad, sharply divided not only over its future, but also over its past. A war (political and cultural) is underway, and unless you are myopic, clear battle lines have been drawn.
Pray say, does a nation, where its natives are eager to rewrite the past to remove even God from the picture, have a future? What can we expect from a nation, once regarded as a shining city on a hill, but now morphing more and more into Sodom and Gomorrah, rotting in immorality? What does the future hold?
The Good Book Ezekiel 33:11, shows where God poses a very pertinent and important question to a nation that once knew, and had been richly blessed by him, but later turned their back on him
America and her people behave as if God has fallen victim to a served deportation order, hence no likely return. God also knows, and is fully aware, that a nation can commit suicide. He has seen and knows it. Since the end of World War 11, in 1945, we have seen the strength of the once-great British Empire decline in its territorial scope, and now, even the Mother country is wracked with cultural disintegration and fragmentation as it has chosen this self-destructive path.
America is following closely behind. The current unbuilt wall may either speak all or serve as a close call.
Abraham Lincoln’s warning was prophetic and is crucial. I cogitate, with profound concern, that America’s own people could be, or would be, the author and finisher of their own fate and natural destruction. However, unlike Thomas Jefferson, there will be no trembling.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.