Four Signs of Decline - The writing’s on the wall for the fall of the American Empire
It was only a few years ago that Michael Ignatieff wrote a controversial piece in the New York Times titled, “The American Empire (Get Used to It.)” and already it’s time to start writing the epitaph. This writer never cared much for Ignatieff’s flippant header, much less the actual arrogant and aggressive empire building emanating from Washington since the Bush regime and their neocon supporters stole the 2000 election. Granted, the empire building began long before the Repugnican scheme machine became the lead engine, but the present occupants in the White House have refined imperialism and boiled it down to the most odious raw power mongering this planet has seen in ages.
We’re all too familiar with the litany of sins committed by The Empire, they seem to grow by the day. This should not be surprising given that the worst of outrages by empires in the past often took place during their death throes. In the present case, the acceptance, both by government and much of the population, for officially sanctioned torture, limits on our own constitutional rights and freedoms, as well as a long list of corrupt, deceptive and immoral practices has sullied the nation’s already ailing reputation. Add to this the growing incivility within the nation: the road rage; the take-no-prisoners competitiveness; the ever-angry rightwing talk radio hosts; the Hollywood celebration of cruelty and revenge; and an over-all atmosphere of general distain, and things start looking mighty ugly from sea to shining sea.
Now, it’s nearly game over. There are numerous signs that The Empire, as relatively fast as it rose, is headed for a fall. This writer lay awake last night contemplating just four of the most prominent signs of an empire in decline. They seem to apply to most of the world’s previous empires and they surely apply to the present one:
· An over-extended military
· Loss of international influence and respect
· Internal decadence
· “Barbarian” invasions
Let’s start with the last first. All the recent talk of illegal immigration and the massive demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the streets of the U.S. demanding recognition and respect have brought the issues of national identity and border security to the front burner. However, one aspect of that struggle is hardly ever mentioned: the U.S. has been invaded. Of course, this land has been invaded in the past (as any American Indian will tell you), but put simply in terms of The Empire and its historical standing with regard to previous empires, the “barbarians” are not at the gate, they are already inside participating in the process and influencing the culture. Thankfully, the present invasion has been non-violent in nature (though the southern border is surely not without its violence), but the inevitable change brought about by inter-mingling and shared ideas is already transforming the nation, and by extension, The Empire.
However, internal decadence in the U.S., whether on the part of longtime citizen or new arrivals, is not without its violence. Never before has the gap between the rich and the poor been so obvious and so harmful to the have-nots. In the richest country in the world, 38.2 million people, including 14 million children, live in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger. This represents more than one in ten households in the United States (11.9 percent). This is an increase of 1.9 million, from 36.3, million in 2003. Meanwhile, the top 25 CEOs in the U.S. average annual pay came to $32.7 million a piece. Putting that in perspective, it's more than 900 times the annual salary of the typical U.S. worker. The lifestyles of the wealthy involve unimaginable opulence, multiple homes, wardrobes worth a fortune, endless stores of quality food and luxuries, their dogs eat better than millions of U.S. citizens. This is a form of civic violence. Such excess and inequity was no stranger to Rome as it slid into the dustbin of history.
Finally, The Empire’s loss of international influence and respect, as well as our over-extended military can be laid directly on the White House’s doorstep. It is the Bush regime’s single-minded psychosis for world conquest that has lead to near unanimous hatred of the U.S. around the world. Those foreign governments that don’t outright hate this nation and its’ present leader’s endless lust for riches and power, are either infinitely patient or simply pretending to be friends. Virtually all of the so-called Coalition of the Willing has pulled the plug on supporting The Empire’s conquest of Iraq. Washington pretty much stands alone in the desert it poisoned. No self-respecting nation wants to condone or be a party to torture, kidnapping, imprisonment without trial, or utter disregard for international law. The Bush regime and their friends in Congress and in the Judiciary have turned this nation into a pariah of historic proportions. However, history being what it is will have the last word.