Electing the Tyrant: Parallels Between the Romans, Mexico's Conquest and US Democracy

An essay on democracy's history and its implications in the aftermath of a Donald Trump victory.


From the film, Gladiator:
Conversation between Lucilla and Commodus

After tiring myself of this election, the campaigns were attacks on both candidates, both up to their necks in corruption; I couldn't think of a way to write about it. Now, after the election I have come to realize how horrible it all is, and by this I mean what democracy really means here, and what it has done in the past.

I can't profess to know the answers, but as the years go by, as a Mexican thinker, I come to see parallels between the Romans, my country’s conquest and what we call political life in general; a society ridden with hypocrisy and brutality, veiled by a republic that is called that only by name, justified by the child of Rome: “Rhetoric.” 

In the passage from the film Gladiator, you can hear the resonance of what Rome was, in Spanish we have a saying that comes from the Romans, al pueblo pan y circo – to the people bread and circus. This is the testament of what republics have returned to. Immigrants like the slaves of Rome are never heard, are never made part of the democracy that the republic proclaims. The rights of migrants, Latin American, Muslim, Asian, and the long list of people excluded can not be given; the rights of men and women are their own form their birth.

You want to know how this happened. Look at the crowd, look at it for what it is. You want to know how we came to this. It was always here, it has never gone away. The country you live in is not what you thought it was.

I want you to realize what democracy was in the past, that its claim to civilization is one that was marked by violent oppression, and that the true republic must be sustained by the virtues it proclaims.

In the film, his son, Commodus, smothers Ceaser after he tells him that Rome would be a republic again. Commodus responds that he never had the virtues his father held: wisdom, courage, fortitude and temperance.

The world does not care for facts, it does not value truth, it shuns away from it when it involves men who evade taxes, molest women, and are involved in outsourcing labor. The history of rhetoric is a long one, by the time it reached the Romans it had been perfected. There are three ways to convince a crowd, a talent given to orators: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. Ethics, logic, and passion have been used to move the masses. Its battle sometimes defined by prejudice, where unfounded claims of crimes are fed to a rather benign society. The society here blamed is the migrant one, the African American one, and the Islamic one.

People shift their alliance on frail arguments; it is only in the silence of reality that things become clear. 

If I have learned anything from this election, it’s that one should not trust a candidate, or public official. What you want cannot be given to you. This mob’s justice will always erase Black and Brown folks from its narrative of “A nation for all.”  That all lives matter, but middle class suburban lives matter a little bit more than others. That it is safe to be in a crowd that claims western culture as its own, that its false narrative exults them as leaders and not as pillagers of lands that were not theirs; that even to this day defy their own treaties to the natives who have been wronged.

Before when racism came up, the bigots would tell you who they were. Now, in the democratic nation that we live in, such things are explained quickly, even after evidence of cops killing the innocent. Why did they kill them? They cannot explain, prejudice sometimes being the last of all reasons. 

In Michel Foucault’s writings he tells us that there are people who are written out of history, that the lower classes were never given a chance to write their own narratives, and the ones who rebelled against a prison state were persecuted. He tells us that it came to a point where any form of dissent was celebrated among the oppressed.

A slave rebellion can be stopped, not the memory of it, not the history of it.

If the Romans taught us anything it is that their democracy and their republic was built on excluding the many. 

The fall of the Roman Empire is and example of all civilization, it is a lesson for those who grow arrogant in their power. 

After denying his support in the invasion of Iraq, what the candidate exposes is his own self-righteous, back peddling on his own admission to invade. A true coward to the end, and that goes for many who approved of it, only to learn after that the weapons of mass destruction were never there, that it was all a lie, that who truly benefited was Halliburton, and company. A war fueled by prejudice, a prejudice used to perpetuate a continuing war that has no foreseeable end. 

What it created among the people of Iraq, was not democracy, not justice, but a self proclaimed justification of so called freedom. And in the void of any sort of justice rose what ironically is called an Islamic “State.”

People have always used religion to unify and at times deceive. It happened in Mexico during the conquest when Spaniards enslaved Natives for being unchristian savages, as chronicled by Bartolome de las Casas. He opposed the criminal law of Encomiendas where the king decreed that all Natives were slaves and any European man could take them as such. Let this be the allegory to our now current events, when men in politics destabilize countries that had nothing to do with terror, and now justify themselves in an irony of a rising tide of the Islamic State.

When I think of my country, I know why the conquest of it was so horrendous. The new world was not an uncivilized place, much like Iraq, its civilization was vast in knowledge and science, but the victors do not share this with the conquered. A silence is left in the air, Bartolome de las Casas writes about one native named Hatuey, who rebelled and mobilized against the Spaniard's aggression. After being exiled from what is now the Dominican Republic and entering Cuba, he went to the many tribes to warn them of what was to come.

Showing them a basket of gold, he told them as Bartolome de las Casas writes: 

This is the God of the Spaniards, this is why they fight and kill. This is why they persecute us, and this is why we must kill them. These tyrants tell us they worship a God of peace and equality, but they take our lands and make us their slaves. They speak of an eternal soul, and of its prize and punishment, but they steal our belongings, seduce our women, and rape our daughters. They are incapable of equaling us in valor, they cover themselves in iron, that our weapons can not penetrate.

For his inciting rebellion Hatuey was burned at the stake. Before his death he was asked if he would like to become a Christian so he would go to heaven.

In his last words he asked father Olmeo, “Do Spaniards go to heaven? I do not want to go there, I would rather go to hell, to not see such cruel people.” 

What can one say to someone who lived invasion? What comfort is there for them?

This is the real mark of so called civilized western men, who go into illegal wars against the poor with excuses of civilizing, of liberation, of searching for weapons and evangelizing. You can chose the one you like in this narrative because the reality is that most governments are less involved in governing, or freedom and more so in domination. 

Can one blame Christianity like people blame Islam? 

Murder, genocide, and corruption are not precluded to one people. For centuries the Christian faith has been used to conquer and kill off cultures throughout the planet, but it is not the faith of the Christian that tells him to do so. It is his own avarice, because a faith cannot be blamed when it is what keeps the innocent from losing hope. It is easy to dismiss all sorts of people not just Latin American, Asian, Muslim and many more migrants, the war that is not spoken of is on those who seek shelter in unknown lands, those who are exiled, who embark on an exodus into the unknown, and mourn the loss of their countries to war and corruption. 

The law does not make one decent. The history of a western law, a western narrative is one that will always be in question. In America even the notions of democracy are not to be trusted, not when a blind people are led to believe that a nation's laws are liken to the laws of a Christian faith.

Through this election the mask of a democratic world will be removed, the notions that the tradition of  “Might is Right” will finally show itself, and nothing civilized will come of it.

Let this allegory teach you of who you are, that the threat you so long wanted to prevent came; not by foreigners, not by the different people that live in your country accused of taking it apart, but by greed, by prejudice, and accepting corruption.

Were you not delivered from bondage? Was not Egypt plagued to liberate people like you? Did not the ocean part for them to cross? Was not the mana of heaven given to them? And, did not they disobey their lord and wander through the desert for 40 years?

If you can't believe this tale, if you can't give credit to what it shows us, leave it as a lesson for those that proclaim themselves the elected; that you are chosen out of mercy, and not merit. You are no different from your brother – a border, a wall or an ocean cannot make you any better than him. Your leaders, however rich, however powerful, are subject to the judgment that you yourself are called to. The tradition of lying and pillaging and prejudice can only be understood as the wickedness that it is, and no charlatan can ever change their names to great virtues.


From the film, Gladiator:
Senator Graccus speaking of emperor Commodus

 

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This article is part of the categories: Arts & Culture  / Business  / Community  / Economy  / Education  / Immigration  / Law & Justice  / Politics 
This article is part of the tags: Christianity  / Democracy  / Donald Trump  / Election 2016  / Gladiator  / Migrants  / Presidential Election 2016  / Romans  / Trump  / Violent Opression 

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