Saturday, January 25, 2014

New Cato Bio Misrepresents Both Subject and History

With the looming end of our republic and the use of the people to effect their own enslavement becoming the norm, I had a feeling that something like this would happen.

Those who have dangerous agendas tend to sense when their designs are being exposed. Although they have reasons for confidence, Progressives are starting to realize that the People are noting the many similarities between our decline and that of the Roman Republic, and something had to be done to paint a picture that was quite different from what actually occurred.

College textbooks from periods as early as the 1960's already featured the Marxist version of Roman history. As our Founders and Framers often thought of  themselves as Romans (good recent work on this linked below*), and our Constitution is somewhat of a model of the Roman Republic as much as it is of the ancient Hebrews and contemporary Great Britain, the Left needed to discredit the ancient Romans in order to portray themselves as having something better to offer.

The revolt against the Tarquins became a mere seizure of power by aristocrats at the expense of a king and the common people. The examples of heroism by ancient Romans? We are now told that none of those things happened - or if they did, they were the doings of individuals seeking to serve the interests of their respective "class" (The British Whig John Wilkes gets the same treatment).

The problems of the Middle and Late Republic were no longer the massive importation of cheap slave labor that forced the middle class freeholder out of  business and into the life of a welfare recipient, the phenomena of elections becoming a question purely of money, the rapacity and corruption of provincial governors, nor did they have anything to do with the soldiery looking to their generals for bonuses and giving them their loyalty rather than to the republic. From at least the 1960's on, the Roman republic was described as being inherently unable to function with so much territory to govern (or as we would say today "get anything done").

Romans who gave their lives to combat the power-hungry Caesar and others of his type were no longer the good guys. The most common inspiration for early American patriots was Addison's play Cato, which rightly featured as its hero Marcus Porcius Cato the Younger. The man who died by his own hand alone in Utica rather than be the recipient of the mercy of the man who ended what was left of the republic, was now a reactionary who only wanted to protect the interests of his class and would not change with the times. Caesar's deserved fate, something to which early patriots such as Patrick Henry would allude as a warning to the Crown, had been transformed by Leftist academicians into a horrible crime. I myself was a victim of this willful misrepresentation; as a youth of the late 1970's and 1980's,  I looked upon the assassination of the murderous, selfish, and grossly prideful tyrant as a tragedy.

As I first noted, I feared that a new "consensus"-creating book on either the last years of the Roman republic, or specifically Cato himself, would be written to get what the textbooks have said onto the bookshelves of retailers. The book critiqued in the Breitbart article (below) does precisely what the Left wants - it falsely recreates the life of Cato to paint a picture of a man whose resistance to needed changes were the cause of the advent of Caesarism. (A term that the author likely lifts from-Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West). The term describes the era when the culture is spent, the people have lost their will, and power resides in one man while maintaining only the outward forms of the old ways. 

The only fault that I have with the critique is that the writer of the Breibart piece seems to operate with the assumption that the author of the book is mistaken. That is not the case - these people know fully well what they are doing. The misrepresentations of Cato and his time are purposeful and are intended to cloud the minds of the People.

For a better picture of last true Roman, I strongly recommend reading Plutarch's Life of Cato.

"The Founding Fathers built this country with the Roman Republic’s model in mind and were even more concerned about what caused its fall than how it rose to prominence. Rob Goodman, author of a new Cato the Younger biography, Rome’s Last Citizen, recently wrote an article in Politico discussing the historical comparison between the United States and the last days of the Roman Republic.

Though the former speechwriter for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) must be commended for attempting to bring classic Roman history back into modern discourse and for writing the first major biography of Cato since Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, his analysis generally missed the mark.

The modern connection between the Tea Party, Founding Fathers, and Roman republican statesmen is apt, but his idea that intransigence and opposition to D.C. politics is the cause for America’s current dysfunction is inaccurate. American dysfunction comes from the deep divide in values and the destruction of the constitutional safeguards designed by the Founders.

Goodman was mostly accurate when he said:

"Tea Partiers imagine themselves as revolutionary Americans; revolutionary Americans (churning out pamphlets under names like “Publius,” “Brutus,” and “Cato”) imagined themselves as republican Romans; and those Romans measured themselves against the generations that bequeathed them an empire."
Many Americans today see our own republic in severe decline and worry that numerous damaging changes to republican institutions may become irreversible if not corrected soon. They look to the principles that made the country great in the past and use them as a guide for reform. In many ways, this is not too unlike what the Founders did when they created the republic.

The Founding Fathers believed that they were reviving the republican principles of Rome and combining them with classical liberal ideas derived from the Enlightenment. Americans at the time of the founding absorbed the stories from Plutarch and other Roman historians, modeling themselves after the ancient republic’s foremost citizens.

For instance, one of the most popular plays at the time was Joseph Addison’s Cato: A Tragedy, which depicts the great Roman senator’s patriotic suicide, which he preferred to living under the tyranny of Julius Caesar. George Washington liked the play so much he had it performed by his men at Valley Forge, and many of the famous lines from the Revolution most likely come from Addison’s work, including Patrick Henry’s “give me liberty or give me death” and Nathan Hale’s final words, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”............

Like the Founding Fathers, Tea Party conservatives attempt to link themselves to the great and timeless principles of the past, which were grounded in a deep understanding of human nature.

This has led to a new generation of statesmen, like Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and others who have picked up the mantle of Ronald Reagan and channeled the passion of grassroots conservatives around the country to stand by sound policies and limited-government ideas.

Clearly, Goodman views these men and women as dangerous and writes, “Rome’s tragedy is that the men who saw and sold themselves as guardians of the way of the elders did more than anyone to undermine it.”

Goodman implies that the virtuous men who opposed Caesar ultimately failed to change with the times and, instead of adjusting to the new era which was not all that far outside the norm, destroyed the republic through their firm and unbending opposition to Caesar’s agenda. He also implies that the Founders had an irrational fear of tyranny, writing, “America’s founders regularly branded their opponents as would-be ‘Caesars,’ and in our time, their style of argument has blended with apocalyptic religion and taken on new life.” He admits that Julius Caesar’s policies were illegally enacted (he passed laws by bypassing the senate), but decries the “crisis politics” that those in the Roman Senate, like Cato and Cicero, precipitated............

The progressive agenda, from its early days at the turn of the twentieth century until the modern day, has been aimed at placing a new cornerstone at America’s foundation. Rejecting both the “natural law” ideas of individual rights and the carefully crafted system of federalism codified by the Constitution, progressives have radically increased state power, placed more power in the hands of the executive branch, and created the bureaucratic-administrative state that now runs rampant."

[The following treats an older work]

"Instructive in understanding the long-term agenda of progressivism and the philosophy that Tea Party conservatives oppose so staunchly is Jay Franklin’s book 1940. Franklin was a progressive journalist in the mid-twentieth century who was, appropriately enough, trying to get President Franklin Roosevelt elected to an unprecedented third term when he wrote the book.

"Franklin believed the time had come to strip away the remaining vestiges of Constitutional federalism, which had already been eroded by progressive reforms in the early twentieth century. He explained what kind of changes he and other progressives had in mind:

The internal organization of the Government should, consequently, differ from the old-time Constitutional set-up of separate and discordant powers, legislative, executive, and judicial. For if the fiat of the Progressive State is to be law in the matters to which it confines its interposition, it must be in a position to issue its orders promptly, clearly, and without doubt to its validity."

Gone would be the careful “Madisonian” checks and balances that placed limits on the power of federal, state, and local governments, as well as the checks between the branches of the federal government. Unlike previous strong executives, like Andrew Jackson or Grover Cleveland, progressives did not just want a president who would use hisconstitutional powers to their fullest extent to veto bad legislation or lead the nation through war, but instead would craft and implement legislation through a vast federal bureaucracy.

Congress, which Franklin called a “rubber stamp body” in 1940, would only have the power to meekly push back against the imperial executive from time to time and enter a “respectable twilight.”

Turning around the famous statement by Founding Father John Adams that our country should be a “nation of laws, not of men,” Franklin said, “America has had enough of a government by lawyers; it wants a government by men.” The slow process of legislative bickering, in progressives’ view, had to be replaced with a bureaucracy of experts, whose “scientifically” decided policies would be superior to mere politics.

Franklin wrote:

"We are entering an age of Caesarism, and we must fight fire with fire. Against the foreign dictators we must pit a powerful Presidential office and give the White House, through democracy, all the powers the executive needs to deal swiftly and thoroughly with the rapid shifts and changes of world affairs and domestic problems.”.........

In the final days of the Roman republic, Cicero made a statement that would undoubtedly resonate with Tea Partiers, quoted in Anthony Everitt’s book, The Rise of Rome:

"The Republic, when it was handed down to us, was like a beautiful painting, whose colors were already fading with age. Our own time has not only neglected to freshen it by renewing its original colors, but has not even gone to the trouble of preserving its design and portrayal of figures."...............

The lesson that should be learned from Cato, Cicero, and the great men of the Roman Republic is not that Americans should lie down and let the republic fade but that they should continue to build a popular movement to restore its values, based on the principles of our founders."

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