Wednesday, August 31, 2005

HBO's Rome and Dubya's America

I was watching HBO's excellent new miniseries Rome last night, and it really got me thinking.

In the period of Roman history covered in this week's episode, Rome is a republic, governed by the people. There is no king or emperor, although there is a system of hereditary nobility. A peasant can be elevated to noble by serving the Republic, but the son of a nobleman is noble by birth. Julius Caesar is a military commander, fighting a war in Gaul (France) while Pompey remained in Rome. The fear expressed by many Roman citizens is that Caesar's enormous popularity as both a military leader and as a "man of the people," delivering tax cuts and other populist measures, would lead him to declare himself king.

HBO does a pretty good job of conveying the qualities that made the Roman army so successful. They had far superior training and discipline, compared to their foes, and they were ruthlessly brutal. Roman soldiers did not waste time wounding opponents; they went directly for the deadly blow. No dissent of any kind was tolerated among the troops. Conquered soldiers were taken as slaves, if they were allowed to live at all. Random individuals would be tortured or crucified simply as a display of power against a village. A Gaul being hoisted on his cross begs not for his life, but "Please, let me die!" The Roman soldiers knew that if they deserted, they too would be crucified.

All in all, it sounds pretty much like George W. Bush's idea of paradise: the superficial trappings of democracy covering the reality of absolute rule by the unchecked exercise of military might and extreme torture. Of course, one of the key points to remember is that Dubya sees himself as Gaius Julius Caesar, not as some lowly soldier, and certainly not as a peasant farmer. Dare I even mention that it would never occur to Dubya to wonder what life was like for the slaves?

I've often said that those who compare Dubya to Adolf Hitler are dangerously wrong. Dubya has no ambition to exterminate the Jews. He doesn't believe in the supremacy of the Aryan race (only of wealthy Americans). He will exterminate the homosexuals and the gypsies only if it becomes politically expedient to do so. It is far more illuminating to compare Dubya to Julius Caesar. I'm not saying that Dubya is like Caesar, but rather that he thinks he is.

Remember this quote?: "If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." (George W. Bush, 2000-12-18)

A little advice to Dubya: if you're reading a story about Julius Caesar to inspire your Presidency, don't forget the last chapter.