Can We Keep Our Republic?

By Maggie Gallagher - July 7, 2011

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During the long period of the republic, every popular rebellion was resolved not by radically amending the Roman constitution, but by opening the competition to more people, multiplying the potential honors, giving more men a chance to win a piece of the glory that it was, in their eyes, to be a free citizen of Rome.

When powerful men of Rome such as Julius Caesar and Marc Antony began to dream instead of the Greek dreams of an Alexander, a man raised to king and God in the eyes of the whole world, the republic fell.

There was so much in the Roman Republic in reality that was cruel and ugly and bloodthirsty. But the dreams it dreamed for generations of men inspired courage, greatness, and, most important, contained the dream of power for its own sake.

What is a republic? The stuff that dreams are made of.

As fragile and insubstantial as a dream, and as difficult to kill, except by substituting alien dreams for the native strength.

America's elites are some of the kindest, most creative and least bloodthirsty in human history. Our mercantile, industrial, engineering and scientific bent has put a premium on creativity, not destruction, that would puzzle a Roman mightly. In that sense, we are the heirs of Athens, not Rome.

But if American elites continue dreaming the dreams of Europeans, and turn from the Founding Fathers, the republic is lost.

The much-derided Tea Party movement understands something deep at its core: As citizens, we have dignity.

As subjects of the knowledge class, we have abundant bread and ever more spectacular circuses.

But no man worthy of the name can live on that alone.


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Copyright 2011, Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher

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