January 21, 2009

Once there was a Great Nation....

I came across a fascinating story entitled 'Once There Was a Great Nation.' Ronald Reagan summarized this story in a book titled, "Stories In his own hand. The Everyday Wisdom of Ronald Reagan.".

Read the following story and as you read try to guess what nation's story is being told:
It was founded by the pilgrims who decided to leave their own country, which didn't encourage freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the individual. So they migrated to an uncivilized land inhabited only by savages. The rock where they landed was to become a national shrine - and one of the most famous monuments in the world.

They drove off the natives, built rude shelters and houses of worship, meanwhile setting aside a special day to give thanks.

These pilgrims - all stern, austere men - believed in their God, but they also believed in work. They established schools under religious leaders that, in a way, became the first public, free education in the world.

Through hard, determined labor they forged a colony while the rest of the world chuckled.

But the pilgrims persevered. Intolerant of wrongdoing, they used gallows to punish criminals. In their day-to-day activities they had no patience for the weak and degenerate, who, if pampered, become the cancer of a nation.

Shortly, these pilgrims engaged in trade and commerce as their community grew. In the process, they became moderately prosperous.

Other colonists came and established other communities. And some of the noblest words ever written began to surface. Facades of our modern government buildings bear some of the legends written back then: "liberty," "justice," "freedom of worship.

Then one of the older nations sent tax agents to exploit the colonists. Alarmed, the colonists sent their greatest men as representatives to a general assembly, choosing a gentleman farmer as their leader. He united them and shook off the shackles of oppression as they won the fight against the "old world" and became a strong nation. That farmer is known as the "father of his country." Today, a famous U.S. city is named after him.

The new nation formed two houses of government. The more powerful was the Senate, whose members could be elected only if they were men of probity [integrity], honor, patriotism, and religion. The nation became a republic, though it is a republic no longer.

Ultimately, a civil war divided the fledgling country. Its leader, who tried to keep the republic united, was assassinated in the shadow of government buildings.

Eventually, many of the nations senators became ambitious for power. They began to make deals with leaders of important factions.

And the republic now became entangled in alliances with foreign nations. The alliances brought wars; the wars brought taxes. But the citizens didn't seem to mind. War, after all, also increased trade and industry. And, besides, the new taxes affected only the rich.

Farmers rebelled, sending petitions for subsidies, price supports. Government, wanting support for its own schemes, bought up the surplus crops and stored them in warehouses, where they rotted. Not to be outdone, industrialists were next to ask for tax benefits.

Finally, the government became all powerful. It guaranteed to protect the people from all forces of nature. And taxation grew and grew. Bureaucracy thrived as free housing, fiee food, free entertainment came next. The middle class declined under the added tax burdens. Crime became so commonplace that it was dangerous to walk the streets at night.

A crippled man led the nation into more wars and foreign entanglements. Patriots became known as radicals.

A general, who had been victimized by the government, pleaded with the nation to remember her past, to return to honor, to decent government, to the principles ofthe founding fathers. The people scoffed, and he died, bitterly thinking his anguished thoughts.

An honest senator dared to speak out for a halt to foreign subversion and to constant foreign aid and draining away from the people's money. The public at large recoiled, branding him a reactionary.

The nation fell deeper into debt. It joined a league of the world with enemies that exploited her. She increased taxes to send her wheat to those enemies. And she devalued her currency, substituting base materials for precious metals in her coins.

She became allied with powerful barbarians in still another stupid war. She sent "experts" to school the barbarians in the latest scientific discoveries.

The nation was now totally corrupt. Its middle class was finally dead. The barbarians moved in... and took over. And they destroyed the civilizations. That nation's name?

Ancient Rome.

Identification notes:

The pilgrim's rock - Foundation of the Temple of Jupiter
The gentleman farmer - Cincinatus
The assassinated leader - Julius Caesar
The general - Marc Anthony
The honest senator - Cicero
Author unknown

"The parallel is almost eerie. How will we finish our story?"--Ronald Reagan

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